Helen Weng, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF and a core member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center at the Sandler Neurosciences Center.
Dr. Weng is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, and is interested in the neurobiological mechanisms through which meditation training may improve social behavior and mental health. She is developing new ways to quantify meditation skills using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to identify mental states of body awareness during meditation. She is also using community-engaged approaches to increase the diversity of meditators studied within contemplative neuroscience, in partnership with the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. This innovative work led to an invitation to present her work to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Buddhism and Science conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She has been a Mind and Life Institute Fellow since 2012, and has been named one of 10 Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement by her peers at mindful.org.
Helen received a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Conducted at the Center for Healthy Minds and Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, her research demonstrated that compassion meditation increased both altruistic behavior towards others and how the brain responds to human suffering. This work was some of the first to suggest that compassion is a skill that may be enhanced through training, which results in both behavioral and neuroplasticity. Her research has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, the BBC, National Public Radio, and Fast Company.
Dr. Weng completed a clinical psychology internship at the UW-Madison Psychiatric Institute and clinics, where she specialized in integrating compassion and mindfulness meditation with psychotherapy to treat mood and anxiety disorders. Her clinical interests include adapting mind-body interventions for LGBTQ people. She values integrating multicultural and social justice frameworks to her work and communication.