Willoughby Britton, PhD

Willoughby Britton Ph.D
Assistant Professor, Dept. Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School
Assistant Professor Behavioral and Social Sciences


Dr. Britton earned a B.A. in Neuroscience from Colgate University in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona in 2007.  She the Director of Brown’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory which investigates the psychophysiological (EEG, EMG, EKG) and neurocognitive effects of meditation and mindfulness-based interventions for mood and anxiety disorders. Her research investigates mechanisms of action, moderators of treatment outcome, practice-specific effects, and adverse effects of meditation.

She has served as PI of multiple NIH-funded studies, including a  dismantling trial that compared the effects of three different types of meditation training programs on pre-frontal cortex functioning in depression; and a collaborative infrastructure grant (UH2)  entitled “Mindfulness Influences on Self-Regulation".

She has investigated the neuropsychological mechanisms of meditation-related benefits (paper 1paper2paper3paper4) and how over-training these same processes can lead to harmspractice-specific effects, and moderators of treatment outcome (including gender, and social context) Or in other words: which practices are best or worst suited for which types of people or conditions and why?
  Dr. Britton directed the  “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience" study, which created a taxonomy of meditation-related challenges and factors that influence severity and duration. Peer reviewed articles about meditation-related harms include a consensus statement by concerned scientsistsmechanisms of action, and best practices for measuring and monitoring. She is particularly interested in meditation-related changes in sense(s) of selfwhich types of changes in sense(s) of self increase or decrease wellbeing; and the effects of mindfulness-based programs on self-related processing. 

  Dr. Britton offers meditation safety and trauma-informed mindfulness "First Do No Harm" trainings to mindfulness organizations, clinicians and educators and provides support services to individuals who are experiencing meditation-related difficulties.

Dr. Britton is a licensed clinical psychologist. As a clinician, she has been trained as an instructor in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and has taught mindfulness to both clinical and non-clinical populations, and in federally-funded clinical trials.