Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)
Photo of Juan Santoyo

Juan Santoyo

Juan Santoyo

Researcher, Fundacion Zen Montana de Silencio, Medellin, Colombia

Juan F Santoyo is a neuroscience researcher and a Brown University 2015 graduate in Cognitive Neuroscience and Contemplative Science. His work in cognitive neuroscience includes research on the mechanisms and effects of meditation-based clinical programs in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. Additionally, he has worked in basic neuroscience studying the neural mechanisms that underlie innate behaviors, and working on the development of a novel genetic tool for mapping and manipulating neural circuits. Outside of research, Juan has helped to co-found and develop a Boston based organization that aims to create spaces and models for engaging with meditation practice that prioritize the needs of marginalized peoples and for addressing the erasure of marginalized identities in mainstream contemplative spaces.

Bringing these different threads of work together, Juan is currently working in Medellin, Colombia to develop, implement, and test a meditation-based program to help FARC-EP ex-combatants with the psychological experience of reintegration as part of Colombia's ongoing peacebuilding process. This program is being developed and implemented in collaboration with the Medical School of the Universidad de Antioquia, and the FundaciĆ³n Zen MontaƱa de Silencio (FZMS), a Colombian non-profit foundation dedicated to teaching meditation in Colombia. While Juan seeks to contribute to the efficacy of healing practices that are accessible to marginalized populations, his broader goal is to foster a model in which engaged peacebuilding work is mutually informing and informed by basic science on the biological bases for social behaviors, healing, and altruistic care.