UCLA Confers Mani Bhaumik Award to University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Andrew Newberg for insights into spirituality and brain function
The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA has named the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Andrew Newberg  the 2010 recipient of the Mani Bhaumik Award. The award has been established to encourage investigators in the international community who advance the understanding of the brain and the conscious mind in healing through visionary research, books, and education.
Newberg, an associate professor in the Department of Radiology and Psychiatry, and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, will receive his award in a ceremony at 4 p.m. on April 22, in the auditorium of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior on the UCLA campus. His keynote lecture is titled, "Does Spirituality Change Your Brain?” Newberg’s talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception. The event is free and open to the public. Parking on campus is $10.00 in Lot 9.
Newberg, 43, is an expert in the field of nuclear medicine brain imaging. His work has focused on the development of neurotransmitter tracers for the evaluation of neurological and psychiatric disorders, and for religious and spiritual states. Since the 1990s he has researched the intersection between the brain and religious and spiritual experiences, and has described the possible neurophysiological mechanisms associated with these two experiences. He has used functional magnetic brain imaging or fMRI, to study Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns in prayers. The results of this work were published in four books, “The Mystical Mind,” “Why God Won’t Go Away,” “Why We Believe What We Believe” and most recently, “How God Changes Your Brain.”
At Penn, in collaboration with the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, he has actively pursued neuroimaging research projects on the study of aging and dementia, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. He has also researched the neurophysiological correlates of acupuncture, meditation, and alternative therapies, and how brain function is associated with mystical and religious experiences. He is also the founding director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, whose purpose is to develop, organize, and coordinate research, scholarship, education, and dialogue, both locally and globally, that focuses on the relationship between spirituality and the brain.
Dr. Mani Bhaumik affirms: “Spirituality based on faith in a higher power for our existence has always been an essential part of human civilization seeking a better quality of life. In the age of science, that belief is no longer merely a blind faith, but anchored in scientific reality. Dr. Newberg’s groundbreaking investigations immensely augment the deep insight provided by the profound discoveries of quantum physics and modern cosmology into the blueprint of creation.”
“I am extremely honored at receiving this award,” said Newberg. “To me, this entire field of research is central to our understanding of who we are as human beings. Receiving this award substantiates how important this research is and greatly encourages me to continue to explore key questions about consciousness, the mind, and healing.”
Mani Bhaumik, co-inventor of the laser technology that made LASIK surgery possible, has funded the annual $15,000 award. His interest in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) — the investigation of the interactions between the brain and the immune system — springs from the pioneering work of Norman Cousins. Cousins came to UCLA in 1978 as an adjunct professor of medical humanities to harness the energies of top scientists dedicated to the emerging field of PNI. He was particularly interested in the impact of positive emotions and attitudes, such as purpose determination, love, hope, faith, will to live and festivity. His efforts resulted in the creation of the UCLA Program in Psychoneuroimmunology, which now carries his name. Cousins died in 1990.
"It is an honor for me to be associated with the Cousins Center, as I was privileged to know Norman Cousins, whose insights continue to inspire me. With this award, my goal is to educate the public on the important benefits of the research and understanding of psychoneuroimmunology," said Bhaumik.
Bhaumik earned a Ph.D. in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship for postdoctoral work at UCLA. For his valuable contributions to laser technology, he was elected by his scientific peers as a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Bhaumik received the Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award from the Indian American Heritage Foundation for his outstanding contributions to science and humanity and for his international bestselling book, "Code Name God." He is also the creator and one of the executive producers of the award winning animated series, “Cosmic Quantum Ray,” which has been distributed worldwide for broadcast The series is geared towards inspiring children’s interest in science. Most recently, Bhaumik was named the Patron of the International Year of Astronomy (2009) and his just published primer on cosmology, “The Cosmic Detective” (Penguin) has been chosen as an official book of 2009.
The Cousins Center  encompasses an interdisciplinary network of scientists working to advance the understanding of psychoneuroimmunology by linking basic and clinical research programs and by translating findings into clinical practice. Led by Dr. Michael Irwin, the center is affiliated with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, directed by Dr. Peter Whybrow.