2023 EVA Recipients & Projects

    Oytun AygünBreathe, Learns
    Dysco Lab, Paris8 University and Nanterre University, France
    Jie GaoTowards an engaged ethnography of Intersubjectivity in experience research through the design of a Collaborative Microphenomenology Modelling Tool
    Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland
    Nona KiknadzeThe Adapted Science of Flourishing for Young Adults: A University-based Mixed Methods Flourishing Intervention Emphasizing Diversity
    University of Miami, Miami, USA
    Karin Matko & Heena KambleWho practices what and why? A Global Exploration of Meditators
    University of Medicine Greifswald, Germany
    NMIMS Deemed-to-be-University, Mumbai, India
    Alejandra Vásquez-RosatiMovement and the experience of emotions through the Cognitive-Corporeal Integration Method
    Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Villarrica, Chile
    David ZarkaImpact of mindfulness on sensorimotor control and learning: does meditation practice improve the integration of proprioceptive information?
    Free University of Brussels, Belgium

    Oytun Aygün – Dysco Lab, Paris8 University and Nanterre University, France

    Breathe, Learn

    Adolescence is a period likely to bring risks along with opportunities (Gilbert, 2012; Steinberg and Morris  2001). During adolescence, cognitive control are still developing and may affect decision making do to the relatively late maturation of the prefrontal cortex compared to the limbic system (Crone, & Steinbeis,  2017). During adolescence, emotion regulation is an essential skill that can affect well-being and  behavior (Aron et al. 2007). Contemplative interventions such as mindfulness (Broderick, Metz, 2009;  Riggs, Ritt-Olson, 2015; Bauer et al., 2019) have been shown to be effective in healthy development of  developing populations, improve attentional measures (Dunning et al., 2018, Tang et al., 2007) and  emotion regulation (Metz et al., 2013, Broderick, 2012, Kemeny and al. 2012). Preliminary investigations  using contemplative interventions at school settings have been carried in with developing populations  in Paris and Strasbourg regions in France. We hypothesize that a 5 minute, 12-week contemplative breathing exercise, in school setting, can have multi dimensional positive effects on cognitive control  and attention skills as well as emotional regulation abilities of adolescents. We also investigate the  neural correlates of a short but regular contemplative practice in school setting, he hypothesize that the  training will reduce mind wandering markers. Additionally our research will investigate the first person  experience of developing populations during a contemplative practice in a school setting. Our proposed research brings together experts from academia and experts of the contemplative domain at schools.  One of the aims of the project is to test the feasibility and effects of a short, easy to use contemplative  practice and its potential benefits into the education system.

    Jie Gao – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland

    Towards an engaged ethnography of Intersubjectivity in experience research through the design of a Collaborative Microphenomenology Modelling Tool

    Background: This project addresses the challenges in micro-phenomenological research, particularly the analysis of interview transcripts into structured models of experience. While micro phenomenological interviews are pivotal in neurophenomenological studies for eliciting detailed accounts of lived experiences, researchers face hurdles in modeling these experiences due to the limitations of current analysis tools. The existing tools, often generic, lack specific features for collaboratively analyzing and modeling experiences, as well as sharing and teaching methods in experiential science, hindering an intersubjective understanding of lived experiences. This project aims to bridge this gap by redeveloping the Micro-phenomenological Modeling Tool (uPMT) and infusing it with features that support collaborative coding, sharing of analyses, and responsible research practices.  

    Aims & Objectives: The primary aim of this project is to develop a nuanced understanding of intersubjectivity in experience research, particularly in the context of micro-phenomenology, and to investigate and facilitate it through the design of a collaborative modeling tool. The objectives include:  1) Assessing current practices of seasoned micro-phenomenology researchers in independent and collaborative analysis of transcripts; 2) Designing and developing an enhanced web-based version of uPMT; and 3) Conducting an evaluation to ensure the tool’s effectiveness and utility in fostering an engaged understanding of intersubjectivity in experience research. Methods & Design: The project is structured in three phases.

    Phase 1 – Ethnographic Study: The first phase involves an ethnographic study of micro-phenomenology researchers. This will include fieldwork and interviews to understand their current practices, challenges, and perspectives on intersubjectivity in experience research. The ethnography will draw on theories of participatory sense-making and enactive ethics. The aim is to capture the embedded, situated, and socially engaged aspects of intersubjectivity at work in experience research.

    Phase 2 – Tool Design and Development: Based on the insights gained from the ethnographic study, the uPMT tool will be redesigned to facilitate collaborative analysis. This phase will involve iterative development, with regular updates and testing to ensure the tool meets the needs of the micro phenomenology community. The tool will incorporate features that enable sharing of analyses,  discussion, and comparison of different interpretations, thereby promoting an understanding of intersubjectivity.

    Phase 3 – Evaluation: The final phase involves evaluating the tool in real-world settings.  This will assess its impact on fostering collaborative and critically engaged research practices on experience. The evaluation will assess the functionalities of the tool, and consider how it facilitates an understanding of intersubjectivity among researchers and the quality of their research.  Significance/Impact: This project’s findings and the development of the uPMT tool will not only benefit the micro-phenomenology community but also have broader implications for the scientific study of contemplative practices. By enhancing the understanding of intersubjectivity in experience modeling,  this project addresses a critical gap in how lived experiences are studied and understood, and contributes to a more holistic understanding of the researcher’s role in experiential research.  Additionally, the project’s focus on ethical considerations aligns with Varela’s vision, promoting research integrity and intersubjectivity in the study of contemplative practices. 

    Nona Kiknadze – University of Miami, Miami, USA

    The Adapted Science of Flourishing for Young Adults: A University-based Mixed Methods Flourishing Intervention Emphasizing Diversity

    Mental health problems in college student populations have been increasing steadily over the last decade. Effective interventions to improve mental health in culturally diverse populations are urgently needed. College life presents a unique opportunity for educators and students to establish enduring habits that reverberate throughout students’ lifetimes. The present study proposes an educational solution to address the young adult mental health crisis by teaching college students how to flourish through didactic and experiential methods. This project will adapt an evidence-based university-course curriculum that integrates academic study of human flourishing with pragmatic and experiential interventions to directly improve college students’ well-being at the University of Miami. This course will teach the importance of contemplative practices and ethical action at the individual, interpersonal, and broader civic levels. The present study aims to investigate psychological health and flourishing in students participating in the flourishing course compared to those in an introductory psychology course. Participants’ psychological health will be evaluated at the beginning of the Spring 2024 semester, at the semester’s conclusion, and at a 6-month follow-up point. To assess changes in student flourishing, the study will employ an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, integrating qualitative analysis of students’ phenomenological experiences of their flourishing within the course with quantitative measures of mental health and flourishing. The theory of change is that knowledge empowers individuals and experiential practice cultivates habits, and both will fuel student flourishing. The study has two sub-aims: (1) to directly improve the well-being of students through teaching about flourishing and societal contributions and (2) to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of a diversity-enhanced flourishing intervention in a culturally complex environment. This course and its evaluation will expand flourishing science beyond Western populations and extend the accessibility of flourishing toward a global population.

    Karin Matko & Heena Kamble – University of Medicine Greifswald, Germany and NMIMS Deemed-to-be-University, Mumbai, India

    Who practices what and why? A Global Exploration of Meditators

    There is a great need for cost-effective and efficient mental health interventions and meditation-based programs could potentially address this need. However, previous contemplative research lacks an overarching theory that incorporates the diverse range of meditation practices found in various traditions. Little is known about how meditation works, why certain people choose certain meditation traditions and practices, and how a person’s meditation practice and personality might develop and influence each other in the long term. In addition, there is a scarcity of cross-country and cross-cultural studies. This study aims to address these gaps by examining who practices what and why in a broad sample of meditators from around the world. Thereby, we will examine individual differences and trajectories in meditation practice and explore the relationship between meditation traditions, techniques, and individual characteristics. The research questions guiding this study are: 1) How do meditators in different cultural and traditional contexts vary in their meditation practice, motivation, and individual characteristics? 2) Why do meditators prefer specific meditation traditions and techniques? 3) What are the individual trajectories in meditation practice and personality development over the long term? To answer these questions, we will conduct a longitudinal survey across multiple countries, targeting experienced meditators and those interested in meditation. The survey will consist of two parts: the first part will capture meditation practice, motivation, and sociodemographic factors, while the second part will include established questionnaires on various individual characteristics. Participants will be asked about their meditation experience and practice, including frequency, duration, traditions, techniques used, participation in meditation communities, and retreat experience. The survey will also measure meditation motivation using a newly developed questionnaire that focuses on personality development and aims to differentiate between individuals of different traditions. Additionally, the study will collect data on individual factors such as HEXACO personality traits, values, self-kindness, altruism, and narcissism. We aim to recruit 1,000 participants from various meditation traditions and a broad range of cultural backgrounds. The survey will be conducted in multiple languages to increase accessibility and will be re-administered after 6 and 12 months to observe changes in practice, motivation, and personality. The data collected will be analyzed exploratively, using descriptive statistics, multilevel modeling, qualitative content analysis, and cluster analysis to answer the research questions. We will conduct the analyses first within each country or geographical region and will analyse qualitative data in their respective languages. Second, we will collapse all data from all countries and traditions and explore overarching patterns and cross-cultural differences. All of these analyses will provide a detailed answer to the question of who practices what and why. The findings from this study will contribute to the development of better theories of meditation, enable more accurate predictions in future research, and inform the development of personalized treatments that cater to individuals’ needs and preferences.

    Alejandra Vásquez-Rosati- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Villarrica, Chile

    Movement and the experience of emotions through the Cognitive-Corporeal Integration Method

    The Cognitive-Corporeal Integration Method (CCIM) is a movement-based contemplative practice, whose theoretical foundations come from the biology of cognition (Maturana & Varela, 1984). CCIM practice has been shown to increase people’s adaptive capacity to emotional changes (Vasquez-Rosati et al., 2017) and to have positive effects on people’s depressive symptomatology, perceived stress, and body awareness across first- and third-person indicators (ongoing postdoctoral research). CCIM practice seeks to develop in people: 1) proprioceptive awareness, 2) intentional movement of focus and division of attention, and 3) synchronization of specific physical and attentional movements of each basic emotion: fear, anger, joy, and sadness. The working hypothesis of the CCIM practice is that through the training of attention to body sensations and the recurrent practice of muscular synergies of basic emotions, the sensory and motor correlations underlying each basic emotion are restored or updated: a) increasing emotional plasticity, understood as the ability to move more easily between emotions, and b) increasing the repertoire of possible behaviors for an effective and wellbeing coupling with the environment. In order to test this hypothesis, it is first necessary to demonstrate that the sequences of movements that activate the proposed muscles correspond to the experience of the basic emotions of fear, anger, joy, and sadness. The CCIM has designed specific sequences of movements with unique qualities of each emotion. In this research, we want to answer whether there is a relationship between the activation of key muscles of each basic emotion and the subjective experience of individuals. To do so, we will measure the muscle activity and movement kinematics involved in the emotions of sadness, fear, anger, and joy (according to the literature and the CCIM proposal) with wireless electromyography sensors and motion capture software and conduct micro-phenomenological interviews about the experience of performing each movement sequence. The results of this research will allow us to deepen the mechanisms that underlie the practice of CCIM and how this practice has a positive impact on the psycho-corporal health of people. We will also be able to propose new mechanisms of emotional regulation that incorporate not only the physiology of the central and autonomic nervous system but also the peripheral nervous system.

    David Zarka –  Free University of Brussels, Belgium

    Impact of mindfulness on sensorimotor control and learning: does meditation practice improve the integration of proprioceptive information?

    Many studies on meditation have focused on the cognitive and emotional components of mindfulness.  In contrast, far fewer have addressed its bodily and sensory components. Here, we aim to determine whether meditation practitioners are better able to perform a simple motor task in conditions where sensorimotor automatisms are inadequate. As a corollary, we would like to know whether motor control would be improved by greater body awareness during the sensorimotor task, and address the question of the brain activities associated with mindful movement. To this end, we designed a visio-motor task consisting of using the computer mouse cursor to reach a target in the upper part of the screen as quickly and directly as possible, while the target jumped randomly to the right, to the left, and remained fixed. The subject thus has to exercise visio-motor control to adjust the trajectory of the gesture in progress. In a second condition, the same task was performed with the mouse inverted. Performance in reaching the target therefore required sensorimotor adaptation to increase the success rate. In addition, whatever the condition (normal or inverted), pseudo-randomly distributed trials are carried out without any visual feedback on the cursor position. These trials therefore rely on the proprioceptive recollection of the gesture and make it possible to question the participant’s awareness of his or her body movements. Three groups of 30 participants will be subjected to this task: a group of expert meditators performing mindful movements (mindful-state group), a group of expert meditators performing the task without practicing meditation (mindful-trait group), and a control group (matched for sex and age). We hypothesize that these three groups will be distinguished from a behavioral point of view, and will make it possible to differentiate the neural activities linked to the implicit (motor control)  and explicit (body awareness and sensorimotor adaptation) proprioceptive processing in mindful movements. In particular, attention will be paid to reproducible subjective insights related to punctual sensorimotor errors, which should coincide with the precise moment of an abrupt change in the participant’s trajectory. To better characterize these sensorimotor insights, a triple analysis will be made coupling microphenomenalogical interviews, trajectories outputs, and EEG analysis. From a fundamental point of view, the paradigm presented here has the great advantage of enabling analysis of the ongoing brain processes involved in sensorimotor control and adaptation, with a very high degree of temporal precision and synchronicity. Coupled with a microphenomenological analysis, the study can provide a robust understanding of how the subjective phenomena reported and the objective data recorded fit together. From a clinical point of view, the task offers an objective evaluation of body awareness that could be extended to many fields (e.g. psychiatric pathologies). If our hypotheses about expert meditators are validated by experiment, this would be a strong demonstration that the integration of sensory information can be voluntarily reinforced through mindfulness and can facilitate the remodeling of sensorimotor processes. Such a perspective would therefore offer new levers for action in the field of health, rehabilitation, and sports performance. 

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