Richard J Davidson

Richard J. Davidson, PhD

PhD, Harvard
Faculty Core Director, Brain Imaging Core
William James & Vilas Professor of Psychology & Psychiatry

Contact Information:

Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
Lab Website: Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience
Lab Website: Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior
Lab Website: Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Research Statement

Research in Dr Davidson's laboratory is focused on the neural bases of disordered and healthy emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices.   His studies have included persons of all ages from birth though old age and have also included individuals with disorders of emotion such as mood and anxiety disorders and autism, as well as expert meditation practitioners with tens of thousands of hours of experience.  His research uses a wide range of methods including different varieties of MRI, positron emission tomography, electroencephalography and modern genetic and epigenetic methods.

Representative Publications

Hanson JL, Nacewicz BM, Sutterer MJ, Cayo AA, Schaefer SM, Rudolph KD, Shirtcliff EA, Pollak SD, Davidson RJ. (2015) Behavioral Problems After Early Life Stress: Contributions of the Hippocampus and Amygdala. Biological Psychiatry. 15;77(4):314-23. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.04.020.

Heller AS, Fox AS, Wing EK, McQuisition KM, Vack NJ, Davidson RJ. (2015) The Neurodynamics of Affect in the Laboratory Predicts Persistence of Real-World Emotional Responses. Journal of Neuroscience. 22;35(29):10503-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0569-15.2015.

Caldwell JZ, Armstrong JM, Hanson JL, Sutterer MJ, Stodola DE, Koenigs M, Kalin NH, Essex MJ, Davidson RJ. (2015) Preschool externalizing behavior predicts gender-specific variation in adolescent neural structure. PLoS One. 6;10(2):e0117453. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117453.

Richey JA, Damiano CR, Sabatino A, Rittenberg A, Petty C, Bizzell J, Voyvodic J, Heller AS, Coffman MC, Smoski M, Davidson RJ, Dichter GS. (2015) Neural Mechanisms of Emotion Regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In Press.

Pasha Hosseinbor A, Chung MK, Koay CG, Schaefer SM, van Reekum CM, Schmitz LP, Sutterer M, Alexander AL, Davidson RJ. (2015) 4D hyperspherical harmonic (HyperSPHARM) representation of surface anatomy: A holistic treatment of multiple disconnected anatomical structures. Medical Image Analysis. 22(1):89-101. doi: 10.1016/

Fox AS, Oler JA, Shackman AJ, Shelton SE, Raveendran M, McKay DR, Converse AK, Alexander A, Davidson RJ, Blangero J, Rogers J, Kalin NH. (2015) Intergenerational neural mediators of early-life anxious temperament. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 21;112(29):9118-22. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1508593112.

Williams LE, Oler JA, Fox AS, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Jesson MA, Davidson RJ, Pine DS, Kalin NH. (2015) Fear of the unknown: uncertain anticipation reveals amygdala alterations in childhood anxiety disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology. 40(6):1428-35. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.328.

Salomons TV, Nusslock R, Detloff A, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ. (2015) Neural emotion regulation circuitry underlying anxiolytic effects of perceived control over pain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 27(2):222-33. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00702.

Birn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. (2014) Evolutionarily conserved prefrontal-amygdalar dysfunction in early-life anxiety. Molecular Psychiatry. 19(8):915-22.

Tomer R, Slagter HA, Christian BT, Fox AS, King CR, Murali D, Gluck MA, Davidson RJ. (2014) Love to win or hate to Lose? Asymmetry of dopamine D2 receptor binding predicts sensitivity to reward versus punishment. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 26(5):1039-48.

Brooker RJ, Buss KA, Lemery-Chalfant K, Aksan N, Davidson RJ, Goldsmith HH. (2014) Profiles of observed infant anger predict preschool behavior problems: Moderation by life stress. Developmental Psychology. 50(10):2343-52.

Converse AK, Ahlers EO, Travers BG, Davidson RJ. (2014) Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 27;8:13.

Birn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. (2014) Extreme early-life anxiety is associated with an evolutionarily conserved reduction in the strength of intrinsic functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the central nucleus of the amygdala. Molecular Psychiatry. 19(8):853.

Vendlinski MK, Javaras KN, Van Hulle CA, Lemery-Chalfant K, Maier R, Davidson RJ, Goldsmith HH. (2014) Relative influence of genetics and shared environment on child mental health symptoms depends on comorbidity. PLoS One. 31;9(7):e103080.

Shackman AJ, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. (2013) Neural mechanisms underlying heterogeneity in the presentation of anxious temperament. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A. 9;110(15):6145-50.

Rosenkranz MA, Davidson RJ, Maccoon DG, Sheridan JF, Kalin NH, Lutz A. (2013) A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 27(1):174-84.

Heller AS, Johnstone T, Light SN, Peterson MJ, Kolden GG, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ. (2013) Relationships between changes in sustained fronto-striatal connectivity and positive affect in major depression resulting from antidepressant treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1;170(2):197-206.

Brooker RJ, Buss KA, Lemery-Chalfant K, Aksan N, Davidson RJ, & Goldsmith HH. (2013) The development of stranger fear in infancy and toddlerhood: Normative development, individual differences, antecedents, and outcomes. Developmental Science. 16(6):864-78.

Lapate RC, Lee H, Salomons TV, van Reekum CM, Greischar LL, Davidson RJ. (2012) Amygdalar function reflects common individual differences in emotion and pain regulation success. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Jan;24(1):148-58.

Levinson DB, Smallwood J, Davidson RJ. (2012) Social influences on neuroplasticity: Stress and interventions to promote well-being. Psychological Science. 23(4):375-80. doi: 10.1177/0956797611431465.

Burghy CA, Stodola DE, Ruttle PL, Molloy EK, Armstrong JM, Oler JA, Fox ME, Hayes AS, Kalin NH, Essex MJ, Davidson RJ, Birn RM. (2012) Developmental pathways to amygdala-prefrontal function and internalizing symptoms in adolescence. Nature Neuroscience. 15(12):1736-41.

Shackman AJ, Maxwell JS, McMenamin BW, Greischar LL, Davidson RJ. (2011) Stress potentiates early and attenuates late stages of visual processing. Journal of Neuroscience. 19;31(3):1156-61.

Abercrombie HC, Jahn AL, Davidson RJ, Kern S, Kirschbaum C, Halverson J. (2011) Cortisol's effects on hippocampal activation in depressed patients are related to alterations in memory formation. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 45(1):15-23.

Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Davidson RJ and Kalin NH. (2010) Orbitofrontal Cortex Lesions Alter Anxiety-Related Activity in the Primate Bed Nucleus of Stria Terminalis. Journal of Neuroscience. 30:7023-7027.

Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Rogers J, Dyer TD, Davidson RJ, Shelledy W, Oakes TR, Blangero J, Kalin NH. (2010) Amygdalar and hippocampal substrates of anxious temperament differ in their heritability. Nature. Aug 12;466(7308):864-8.

Vandehey NT, Moirano JM, Converse AK, Holden JE, Mukherjee J, Murali D, Nickles RJ, Davidson RJ, Schneider ML, Christian BT. (2010) High-affinity dopamine D-2/D-3 PET radioligands F-18-fallypride and C-11-FLB457: A comparison of kinetics in extrastriatal regions using a multiple-injection protocol. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism. 30(5):994-1007.

Vandehey NT, Garell PC, Hampel JA, Murali D, Smith EM, Davidson R, Converse AK, Nickles RJ and Christian BT. (2009) PET measurement of changes in D2/D3 dopamine receptor binding in a nonhuman primate during chronic deep brain stimulation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 176:129- 135.

Christian BT, Vandehey NT, Fox AS, Murali D, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Nickles RJ, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ and Kalin NH. (2009) The distribution of D2/D3 receptor binding in the adolescent rhesus monkey using small animal PET imaging. Neuroimage. 44:1334-1344.