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Neuroscientist: 'Compassion is best learned as a skill'

Dr. Richard Davidson's research inspired La Crosse Compassion Project

Neuroscientist: 'Compassion is best learned as a skill'

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The neuroscientist whose research inspired the La Crosse Compassion Project visited the city on Monday to headline the "La Crosse Compassion Project Live!" event.

Before talking about his research to more than 500 people at Viterbo University's Fine Arts Center, Dr. Richard Davidson visited the Pump House Regional Arts Center to take a look at the 6,000 6-by-6-inch art panels that depict what compassion means to students in the School District of La Crosse.

Tim Riley, the executive director of the La Crosse Education Foundation, brought the Compassion Project to La Crosse after working on a similar project in Appleton, Wisconsin. Riley invited Davidson, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison, to come to La Crosse to see the community's efforts.

"It turns out when we express compassion, we actually recruit circuits in the brain that we know to be involved in the positive emotions and happiness," Davidson told News 8 after he saw the students' artwork at the Pump House. "Empirically we know that that when children are generous to other children and are compassionate to other children, those are the single most important things that we can do to increase a child's level of happiness or well-being."

Davidson told the audience at the "La Crosse Compassion Project Live!" that compassion is best learned as a skill and "Communities like La Crosse are investing in ways I think will pay off as children develop."

He concluded the event with a video message from the Dalai Lama, who spoke about the value of compassion projects in Wisconsin. The particular video shown was taped in 2011 during the Compassion Project in Appleton.

"Where there's more compassion, there's more friendly relationships," the Dalai Lama said in the video.

Davidson said the La Crosse Compassion Project is the first step to engage the community around this project. So where does the Project go from here?

"There needs to be additional systematic effort to capitalize on the excitement and initial curiosity that this has generated in the community and I think this can then lead to systematic programs being incorporated into the school curriculum, for example, to promote generosity and compassion in a way that can produce more enduring change," Davidson said.


Click to access TheCompassionProjet.me, a community resource website created and managed by WKBT News 8 on bullying and how we can be a more compassionate community.

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