David R. Vago, Ph.D. 

Director, Contemplative Neuroscience & Mind-Body Research Laboratory
Research Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Core Training Faculty, Vanderbilt Brain Institute

Faculty, Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation
Vanderbilt University


Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry
Brigham & Women’s Hospital – A Teaching Affiliate of Harvard Medical School


Director, Aware Labs, Contract Research and Consulting

Dr. Vago presenting at Mind and Life XXX, Sera Jey Monastery, India

Dr. David Vago is Research Associate Professor and Director of the Contemplative Neuroscience and Mind-Body (CNMB) Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is core training faculty for the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. Dr. Vago is also a research associate in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Vago has completed post-doctoral fellowships in Biological and Social Psychiatry, Neuropsychiatric Neuroimaging, and Mind and Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Weill Cornell Medical School, and University of Utah School of Medicine. He has previously held the position of Research Director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt and Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute. Dr. Vago is currently a  Mind and Life Fellow, supporting the Mind and Life mission by advising on strategy and programs. He is also a consultant for the mindfulness, well-being, and psychedelic research and industry community. He received his Bachelors Degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 1997 from the University of Rochester. In 2005, David received his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Neural Sciences with a specialization in learning and memory from the department of Psychology, University of Utah.

David’s research interests broadly focus on utilizing translational models to identify and characterize neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms underlying adaptive mind-brain-body interactions and their therapeutic relevance in the context of mental health and chronic pain. Through mixed methods of neuroimaging, predictive computational modeling, neuroendocrine biomarker identification, cognitive-behavioral and first-person phenomenological analyses, Dr. Vago helps facilitate a multi-pronged research program in basic science, clinical trials, intervention development, education, and innovation. He has been a recipient of several research grants from the NIH and small foundations, has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, chapters, and science abstracts. His research has been covered by mainstream news outlets such as the Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Scientific American, and NPR, among others. As a thought leader in the field of integrative health and mindfulness research, Dr. Vago has given over 150 keynote and invited lectures, oral presentations, and grand rounds.

A number of research initiatives that are ongoing, include Mapping the Meditative Mind, in which the Dr. Vago has partnered with contemporary meditation teachers and scholars to investigate psychosocial and neurobiological mechanisms supporting states of meditation across the spectrum of formal meditative expertise. Another initiative aims to identify mechanisms of engagement, identify predictors for clinical outcomes, and optimize mindfulness-based treatment interventions.  For more info – see Research Studies

FORMER LAB MEMBERS

Poppy Schoenberg, Ph.D.

Dr. Schoenberg directs a Neurophysiology Research Program at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine that seeks to elucidate; (1) neurophysiological working mechanisms of mindfulness-based interventions for a range of clinical conditions; (2) neural substrates, systems, and neurophenomenology, involved in subtle mind states and stages associated with mental training across  various techniques; and (3) design innovation and novel application of neurophysiological brain-computer and brain-brain interface technologies. Extant research deliverables can be found via this link

Resh Gupta, M.S.

Resh Gupta, M.S., is a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Program of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. Supervised by Dr. Vago and Dr. Autumn Kujawa, Resh is currently investigating whether mindfulness-based interventions can modify behavioral and physiological (event-related potentials) markers of attentional bias to threat in clinical populations. Additionally, she is interested in determining whether mindfulness-induced modifications of these markers are associated with improved clinical symptoms. Resh is also investigating other forms of early perceptual and attentional processing in meditative adepts and novices.

Emily Mohr, M.A.

Emily was a research assistant and study coordinator in the Contemplative Neuroscience and Integrative Medicine Laboratory. Emily received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of North Carolina Wilmington, and a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Appalachian State University. Her graduate research focused on trauma and its effects on information processing, such as emotion identification, and attentional bias.  She has been interested in the behavioral effects of mindfulness-based interventions in clinical populations with anxiety, stress, and chronic pain.

Collaborators – Vanderbilt

Collaborating Labs

Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Osher Collaborative for Integrative Medicine

Brown Mindfulness Center, Brown University

Lazar Lab, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Zeidan Lab, UCSD Center for Mindfulness

The Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development (C-MIND)