The BRITTON LAB studies contemplative, affective, and clinical neuroscience. Under Willoughby Britton, Ph.D., the lab researches the effects of contemplative practices on cognitive, emotional, and physiological aspects of affective disturbances in the interest of the cultivation of greater well-being. In addition to academic pursuits, the Britton Lab also serves as an epicenter for the contemplative community at Brown.Check out the News and Events tab for information about visiting speakers and other exciting developments in the lab! The Britton Lab is proud to be featured in the Brown University Contemplative Studies Initiative video featuring faculty– including Professor Willoughby Britton– and students– including alumni of the Britton Lab. We are located in Room 232 of the BioMed Complex Building at Brown University– 171 Meeting Street, Providence, RI.


New Humanities Research Track

BrittonLab Humanities Track:

  • The Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory (aka The Britton Lab) has 4 tracks: General, Basic Science, Clinical Neuroscience and Humanities.
    While Research Assistants (RAs) in the General and the Science tracks are involved in measuring the brain activity of different types of meditation in the context of clinical trials, those in the Humanities Track investigate the “varieties of contemplative experience” through qualitative interviews, coded analysis, and historical and textual research.
  • Humanities Track RAs conduct and analyze qualitative interviews with meditation teachers (e.g., Jack Kornfield, Fr. Thomas Keating), scholars (e.g., Prof. Louis Komjathy) and meditators in a range of traditions, including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions. To prepare for these interviews, background research is conducted into these contemplative traditions drawing from traditional textual sources as well as contemporary writings, podcasts, other interviews etc.  Research Assistants then transcribe interviews and code them into categories of experience, interpretations and other themes using the qualitative software NVivo.  Content from interviews is then analyzed, and through additional historical, textual, and psychological research, the analysis contributes towards a paper aimed at eventual publication.

RAs in the Humanities Track will receive training in:

  • Qualitative methodology (grounded theory, phenomenology, ethnography etc.)
  • Qualitative analysis software (NVivo), a powerful tool with incredible potential for research in the Humanities
  • Religion and spirituality surveys
  • Researching the history, philosophy, and psychology of contemplative traditions
  • Controlled comparison of select phenomena from contemplative practices and traditions

Humanities Track Opportunities and Career Development:

  • Individuals with backgrounds or future career plans in the Humanities (Anthropology, Religious Studies, Philosophy etc.) can gain valuable and unique experience that will set them apart from other applicants to graduate school. Several RAs in this track have gone on to MA and PhD programs in Philosophy and Religious Studies.
  • Research assistants in this track have also presented data from this study at conferences and have been awarded prestigious fellowships and cumulatively over $75,000 in external funding.  For example, several RAs have received a Mind and Life Summer Research Institute Fellowship, a Mind and Life Visiting Scholar Fellowship, or a Francisco J. Varela Research Award.

How to apply:

  • Send a cover letter/statement of interest, CV, transcript of grades (informal is fine), and letter of recommendation to britton.lab@gmail.com

Requirements and eligibility:

  • RAs are expected to commit to the BrittonLab Humanities Track for a minimum of 1 year, and also to being available during weekends/evenings, winter, spring and summer breaks. Seniors are not eligible unless they can commit to staying past graduation.
  • RAs are expected to work a minimum of 5 hours per week, in addition to weekly lab meetings.
  • Course credit is available only after successfully completing a semester in the lab, and only with permission of the instructor.

For more information:

  • www.cheetahhouse.org