The world's happiest man? Brain scans reveal French monk has abnormally large capacity for Joy, thanks to meditation
The 66-year-old turned his back on Parisian intellectual life 40 years ago and moved to India to study Buddhism. He is now a close confidante of the Dalai Lama and respected western scholar of religion.
Now it seems daily meditation has had other benefits - enhancing Mr Ricard's capacity for joy.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the monk's skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.
The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves - those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory - 'never reported before in the neuroscience literature', Davidson said.
The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.
Research into the phenomenon, known as "neuroplasticity", is in its infancy and Ricard has been at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments along with other leading scientists across the world.
'We have been looking for 12 years at the effect of short and long-term mind-training through meditation on attention, on compassion, on emotional balance,' he said.
'We've found remarkable results with long-term practitioners who did 50,000 rounds of meditation, but also with three weeks of 20 minutes a day, which of course is more applicable to our modern times.'
The world's happiest man? Brain scans reveal French monk has abnormally large capacity for Joy, thanks to meditationThe world's happiest man? Brain scans reveal French monk has abnormally large capacity for Joy, thanks to meditation