Bringing together neuroscience and peacebuilding will help us discover what motivates people to embrace peace instead of war. We’re creating a space where neuroscientists and peacebuilders can connect and explore cutting-edge ideas and insights, and then translate them into practical tools for conflict-affected societies.

The Neuroscience and Peacebuilding Initiative (NPI) brings together cutting-edge research; innovative ideas; and the expertise of scientists, researchers, and practitioners working in neuroepigenetics, psychology, neurobiology, cultural neuroscience, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution.

The NPI will provide strategic guidance on how to operationalize the latest scientific research and translate it into policy-relevant and practitioner-oriented frameworks for action, and will appeal to peacebuilding practitioners, policymakers, scholars and students, and others interested in innovative approaches to address peacebuilding and conflict resolution issues.

The NPI will focus on the creation of practical tools and resources, such as articles, books, online courses, and events, to translate key findings into practical applications for peacebuilders and policymakers working in conflict-affected contexts.

Peacebuilders are increasingly conscious of the shortcomings of technical solutions to conflicts that are rooted in destructive processes and patterns of behavior. Individuals, communities, and societies across the world are confronted daily with the symptoms and consequences of violent conflict. Legacies of systemic violence and injustice are devastating lives and rupturing social systems, leading to unprecedented levels of human displacement and collective suffering.

In light of these grave challenges confronting the global community, peacebuilders are seeking new ways to understand the complexities of dynamic conflict systems and violent behavior. Delving deep into the wiring of the human brain to understand the underlying decision-making processes and neurological mechanisms that come to the fore during violent conflict can help us devise more effective strategies and tactics for preventing and mitigating conflict.

The NPI has constructed an evidence-based foundation for its work with the development of an edited volume featuring more than a dozen leading neuroscientists and peacebuilders. Contributors are working towards an accessible and thought-provoking exploration of different facets of the neuroscience and peacebuilding nexus. (Note: the edited volume is subject to peer review and approval by USIP Press.)

Questions and subjects that will be explored in the Neuroscience and Peacebuilding Initiative:

  • What peacebuilders do and how neuroscience might help them do it better
  • The neural circuitry of aggression and practical applications to peacebuilding
  • The impact of dehumanization on decision-making processes and violence
  • From conflict to reconciliation: Promoting commonality and cooperation
  • Cultural neuroscience and peacebuilding
  • The restoration of resilience: A neurophysiological approach to healing individual and collective trauma
  • Epigentic transmission of the effects of trauma across generations: Implications for Individuals and society
  • How might a better understanding of the brain’s functions and plasticity help us understand how radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism can be prevented and addressed?
  • A neurobiological understanding of how rituals can support peacebuilding processes
  • Neurobiology and artificial intelligence: Practical considerations and ethical Issues
  • Social media, neuroscience, and peacebuilding
  • The future of neuroscience and peacebuilding

Contributors for the Initiative include:

  • Colette Rausch
    Senior Advisor, United States Institute of Peace 
  • Abi Blakeslee
    Practitioner, Somatic Experiencing
  • Bill Casebeer
    Director of Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab, Retired Lt. Col. Air Force, and former DARPA program manager
  • Joan Chiao
    Director of the International Cultural Neuroscience Consortium
  • John Dovidio
    Professor of Psychology and Public Health, Yale University
  • Douglas Fields
    Author, Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain
  • Mari Fitzduff
    Brandeis University
  • Lasana Harris
    Senior Lecturer Experimental Psychology and Social Neuroscience Researcher, University College London
  • Ali Jawaid
    Visiting Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Biostatistics, University of Zurich
  • Isabelle Munsuy
    Professor of Neuroepigenetics, Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich and the Department of Health Science and Technology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
  • Mike Niconchuk
    Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab, Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania and Innovation Lab Senior Researcher, Beyond Conflict
  • Glyndie Nickerson
    Clinical Psychologist, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner
  • Beatrice Pouligny
    Co-Director of the PeaceRewire Project, Senior Fellow for Neuroscience at the Alliance for Peacebuilding


Related Publications

In Southern Ethiopia, Trouble Brews in Sidama

In Southern Ethiopia, Trouble Brews in Sidama

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

By: Aly Verjee

The southern Ethiopian area of Sidama is famous for its coffee. But amid the beans, bitterness lingers. More than 50 people were killed in recent violence, as Ethiopia struggles with demands for the creation of a new Sidama ethnic federal state—a right explicitly permitted by the national constitution. USIP’s Aly Verjee discusses the implications of this latest challenge to peace in Africa’s second most populous country.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Democracy & Governance

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