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David S. Black, Ph.D., M.P.H., Founding Director 

Dr. Black is the Founding Director of the American Mindfulness Research Association, and an Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dr. Black is also a member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Associate Director of Education for the USC Center for Mindfulness Science. His research had been funded by university, private, and federal grants for over 16 years. He as authored and co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed articles in journals including JAMA Internal Medicine, JAMA Pediatrics, Cancer, Pediatrics, American Journal of Public Health, Behaviour Research and Therapy, and Psychosomatic Medicine. Dr. Black began his early career in the health sciences and earned a Master of Public Health degree and directed his first grant-funded human subjects research study prior to finishing his masters thesis. He trained as a NIH National Cancer Institute predoctoral fellow for five years at the USC Institute for Prevention Research, where he latter earned his Ph.D. The focus of his doctoral training was in substance misuse prevention and addictions research. He had self-studied contemplative theory and practices over the previous decade, and realized an opportunity to merge his passion for the contemplative studies with his training in the health sciences. The originating concepts that evolved into the AMRA project arose from the struggles he faced from conducting research in a new field while writing his dissertation, and so was motivated to bring cohesion to the field with a research monitoring, translation, and dissemination project. He continued advanced training as a NIH National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Los Angeles Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. He focused his research effort on conducting a randomized controlled trial to test the impact of mindfulness training on sleep and inflammation in older adults with sleep problems. He went on to articulate a novel conceptual model to illustrate how mindfulness training exerts biological influence from brain to body using a genomic signal transduction framework with downstream biological impact on sympathetic nervous system activity, release of norepinephrine at nerve terminals, activation of b-adrenergic receptors on adjacent cells, and the cAMP/PKA signaling pathway that ultimately regulates gene expression by stimulating transcription factors, particularly those associated with the propagation of inflammation in peripheral blood. He recently completed a NIH NIDA R01 randomized controlled trial testing mindfulness training added to residential treatment for substance use disorder. He is currently co-directing a four-group experimental laboratory study to test the effect of mindfulness training combined with intranasal oxytocin on smoking lapse and craving among smokers. He enjoys mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, was awarded the prestigious USC Mentoring Award for Graduate students from the Center for Excellence in Teaching in 2016 and the USC Mentoring Award for Undergraduate students in 2022. He enjoys spending time with his family in nature, fly fishing, camping, and reading.  

Selected publications:

Amaro, H., Black, D.S. (2021). Mindfulness-based intervention effects on substance use and relapse among women in residential treatment: a randomized controlled trial with 8.5 month follow period from the Moment-by-Moment in Women’s Recovery project. Psychosomatic Medicine, 83: 528-538.

Christodoulou, G., Salami, N., Black, D.S. (2020). The utility of heart rate variability in mindfulness research: A critical review. Mindfulness, 11, 554-70. 

Black, D. S., Christodoulou, G., Cole, S. (2019). Mindfulness meditation and gene expression: a hypothesis-generating framework. Current Opinion in Psychology. 28, 302-6. 

Kechter, A., Amaro, H., Black, D.S. (2019). Reporting of treatment fidelity in mindfulness-based intervention trials: A review and new assessment tool using NIH Behavior Change Consortium Guidelines. Mindfulness, 10(2): 215-233.

Black, D.S., Cheng, P., Sleight, A., Nguyen, N., Lenz., H., Figueiredo, J. (2017). Mindfulness practice reduces cortisol blunting during chemotherapy: A randomized controlled study of colorectal cancer patients. Cancer, 123(16): 3088-96.

Christodoulou, G., Black, D.S. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions and sleep among cancer survivors: A critical analysis of randomized controlled trials. Current Oncology Reports, 19(60):1-8. 

Black, D. S., Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1):13-24. [PMC4940234]

Black, D.S., O’Reilly, G., Olmstead, R., Breen, E., Irwin, M. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4):494-501.

Black, D.S., Irwin, M., Olmstead, R., Ji, E., Crabb Breen, E. Motivala, S. (2014). Tai Chi meditation effects on Nuclear Factor-κB signaling in lonely older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 83(5):315-317. 

Black, D.S., Cole, S., Irwin, M., Breen, E., St Cyr, N. M., Nazarian, N., Khalsa, D., Lavretsky, H. (2013). Yogic meditation reverses NF-κB and IRF-related transcriptome dynamics in leukocytes of family dementia caregivers in a randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(3): 348-355.

Black, D.S., Milam, J., & Sussman, S. (2009). Sitting meditation interventions among youth: A review of treatment efficacy. Pediatrics, 124(3): 532-541.

Seth Zuihō Segall. Ph.D., Science Writer 

Dr. Segall is a clinical psychologist and Zen Buddhist priest who served on the faculties of Southeast Missouri State University (1978), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (1979-1980), the Yale School of Medicine (1981-2009), and SUNY Purchase (2012-2017). He completed a professional internship at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in 1996. Dr. Segall is a former Director of Psychology at Waterbury Hospital (1998-2004) and a former President of the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (1998-2000). He served as a chaplain associate at White Plains Hospital (2016-2020), and writes the monthly Highlights column for the Mindfulness Research Monthly (2012-present). Dr. Segall’s publications include Buddhism and Human Flourishing (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), Living Zen: A Practical Guide of a Balanced Existence (Rockridge, 2020), and Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings (SUNY Press, 2003). He is guest co-editor (along with Belinda Khong, PhD) of a special double issue of The Humanistic Psychologist (2021) devoted to controversies surrounding mindfulness. He has a forthcoming a chapter in the The Philosophy of Meditation (Routledge, scheduled for publication in 2022), and a forthcoming co-written chapter (along with Jean Kristeller, PhD) for the Handbook of Positive Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality (Springer, scheduled for publication in 2022). Dr. Segall’s blog, The Existential Buddhist (2010-present) contains over 130 essays on Buddhist philosophy, ethics, history, art, meditation, and social engagement. He is currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for a new book, tentatively titled Flourishing: Happiness, Virtue, and the Well-Lived Life, which explores philosophical questions related to well-being.

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