Osher Center Research Seminar: Interoception Symposium

This symposium will present research from three projects related to interoception, a key element of our emotions and states of discomfort or well-being. The presenters will be Wolf Mehling, Helen Weng, and Erika Siegel.

Dr. Wolf Mehling will give a brief overview of the field and will summarize findings from studies that used the self-report Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) questionnaire. The MAIA was developed to capture bodily awareness-related changes that people experience with mind-body practices.

Dr. Helen Weng will present the EMBODY Task, a new brain-based measure of interoception during meditation. She will show the feasibility of using machine learning applied to brain data to identify internal mental states associated with meditation (attention to breath, mind wandering, self-referential processing), and using these brain patterns to decode mental states occurring during meditation.

Dr. Erika Siegel will present data from her research on how our emotions color our experiences in ways that are shifting, fluid, and context dependent. She studies how, when, and why our momentary feelings can shape fundamental processes like sensory perception, social functioning, and physical health.

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Wolf Mehling, MD, is trained as a family physician in both Germany and the United States, and additionally in manual medicine and psychotherapy, both board-certified sub-specialties in Germany. He worked in private practice in Germany for 12 years. After completing a second family medicine clinical residency in Santa Rosa and a research fellowship at UCSF, Dr. Mehling became involved in clinical studies on breath therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and integrative movement exercises, as well as a large back pain study with Kaiser. His current research studies the interface of body and mind, specifically interventions potentially enhancing interoceptive bodily awareness.

Dr. Helen Weng, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist who is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF, a core faculty member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, and an affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center. Dr. Weng 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 engagement with the East Bay Meditation Center (Oakland, CA) to increase the diversity of meditators included in neuroscience studies. Her earlier work showed that short-term compassion meditation may increase both altruistic and neural responses to suffering. Her work has been featured in the NY Times, BBC, and NPR, and she was recently named by her peers as one of the 10 Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement at mindful.org.

Dr. Erika Siegel, PhD, is a research fellow in Health Psychology at UC San Francisco. Her training is in affective science and is informed by social psychology, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and neuroanatomy. She studies individuals and dyads using multiple methods (including behavioral, dyadic, and psychophysiological) and statistical approaches (including meta-analysis, multi-level modeling, and pattern classification).

Friday, February 15 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm

UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Bowes Room 523
1545 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Event Type



Mount Zion



Department of Psychiatry, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
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