UC Santa Barbara’s newest research center might well be its most focused. The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UCSB has opened The Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential (CMHP), which is dedicated to advancing interdisciplinary research into mindfulness and neuroplasticity. The center — which will be directed by longstanding collaborators Jonathan Schooler, Michael Mrazek and Dawa Tarchin Phillips — aims to use the best science, education and technology to advance scientific understanding and improve lives.
Schooler, director of CMHP, said the center will bring greater rigor and innovation to many of the questions that were at the center of the Human Potential Movement that grew out of the counterculture milieu of the 1960s: How much untapped potential do we have and what allows us to fully realize our capacity for creativity, fulfillment and contribution? “The last 50 years have brought powerful advances in methods and statistics that can allow researchers to address these questions with a rigor that was simply not possible before,” Schooler explained.
One key CMHP initiative examines how mindfulness training can empower a generation of youth with the tools to focus their attention, regulate their emotions and experience both higher well-being and academic achievement. The team’s research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, has already found that mindfulness is associated with lower stress, higher self-esteem and greater happiness among middle school and high school students. They also discovered that even just two weeks of mindfulness training could improve working memory capacity and standardized test scores of undergraduates by reducing mind-wandering.