Positive Neuroplasticity Research

“People draw on psychological resources such as gratitude to cope with adversity and maintain well-being. These resources must largely be acquired . . . yet little research has investigated how people can be active agents in this process . . . Nor can we find any systematic efforts to instruct people in these skills in clinical settings or in programs aimed at personal development.”

Hanson et al., 2021

We welcome studies on self-directed positive neuroplasticity, for peer-reviewed research as well as masters and Ph.D. theses. Researchers can access the detailed scripts, slidesets, and Participant Handbook of the PNT, and if they like, discuss study design with Dr. Rick Hanson. Funds for qualifying projects may also be available through the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.

There has been much research on psychotherapy, coaching, mindfulness training, and informal self-help. Yet to date, only two studies (Hanson et al., 2021; Jacob & de Guzman, 2016) have investigated how people can heal more and grow more through how they engage the experiences they are having.

We strongly encourage further research in this area. Benefits include:

  • Increasing lasting gains from formal interventions and programs . . .
  • . . . and reducing low motivation, drop-outs, and relapses.
  • Teaching people how to internalize beneficial experiences in daily life
  • Deepening our understanding of how people can acquire greater trait resilience, trait compassion, trait self-worth, etc.


    “There is considerable individual variation in the development of psychological resources from the experiences people have in both formal interventions and everyday life. What could promote their development?

    (Hanson et al., 2021)

    [Over the past several decades], there is no clear trend of improvement in psychotherapy outcomes. . . .Developing new therapeutic experiences may have diminishing returns, with greater opportunities found in helping clients to increase the internalization of the experiences they are already having.

    Hanson et al., 2021

    “The negativity bias makes us good at learning from bad experiences but relatively bad at learning from good ones, such as experiences of psychological resources. By using mental engagement factors, we can potentially increase the conversion of beneficial states to beneficial traits, and thus compensate for that bias.”

    (Hanson et al., 2021)

    Learning is the strength of strengths, since it’s what we use to grow the rest of them. Learning how to steepen one’s growth curve could be the most important learning of all.

     Potential studies include:

    • Investigating the HEAL framework of engaged learning factors [see the LLPE paper for detail] in different settings
    • Studying the Positive Neuroplasticity Training (PNT) with diverse groups
    • Applying the PNT to various issues, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse
    • Modifying the PNT for school-age children
    • Contrasting the results of psychotherapy and other interventions with and without training participants in the deliberate internalization of key experiences
    • Conducting neuroimaging of potentially enhanced structure or function in the studies noted above

    Experiences alone do not produce durable inner resources. There must also be the crucial second stage of learning in which lasting changes occur in the nervous system.”

    (Hanson et al., 2021)

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