Meditation and the Wandering Mind: A Theoretical Framework of Underlying Neurocognitive Mechanisms.
Brandmeyer Tracy,Delorme Arnaud
Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science
During the practice of meditation, the tendency of the mind to wander away from the object of focus is ubiquitous. The occurrence of mind wandering in the context of meditation provides individuals a unique and intimate opportunity to closely examine the nature of the wandering mind by cultivating an awareness of ongoing thought patterns, while simultaneously aiming to cultivate equanimity (evenness of temper or disposition) and compassion toward the content of thoughts, interpretations, and bodily sensations. In this article we provide a theoretical framework that highlights the neurocognitive mechanisms by which contemplative practices influence the neural and phenomenological processes underlying spontaneous thought. Our theoretical model focuses on several converging mechanisms: the role of meta-awareness in facilitating an increased moment-to-moment awareness of spontaneous thought processes, the effects of meditation practice on key structures underlying both the top-down cognitive processes and bottom-up sensory processes implicated in attention and emotion regulation, and the influence of contemplative practice on the neural substrates underlying perception and perceptual decoupling.
Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners.
Fox Kieran C R,Nijeboer Savannah,Dixon Matthew L,Floman James L,Ellamil Melissa,Rumak Samuel P,Sedlmeier Peter,Christoff Kalina
Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews
Numerous studies have begun to address how the brain's gray and white matter may be shaped by meditation. This research is yet to be integrated, however, and two fundamental questions remain: Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? If so, what is the magnitude of these differences? To address these questions, we reviewed and meta-analyzed 123 brain morphology differences from 21 neuroimaging studies examining ∼300 meditation practitioners. Anatomical likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis found eight brain regions consistently altered in meditators, including areas key to meta-awareness (frontopolar cortex/BA 10), exteroceptive and interoceptive body awareness (sensory cortices and insula), memory consolidation and reconsolidation (hippocampus), self and emotion regulation (anterior and mid cingulate; orbitofrontal cortex), and intra- and interhemispheric communication (superior longitudinal fasciculus; corpus callosum). Effect size meta-analysis (calculating 132 effect sizes from 16 studies) suggests a global 'medium' effect size (Cohen's d¯=0.46; r¯=.19). Publication bias and methodological limitations are strong concerns, however. Further research using rigorous methods is required to definitively link meditation practice to altered brain morphology.
Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation.
Lutz Antoine,Slagter Heleen A,Dunne John D,Davidson Richard J
Trends in cognitive sciences
Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.
Evaluation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs Mindfulness Meditation in Brain Changes During Reappraisal and Acceptance Among Patients With Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.
Importance:Cognitive behavioral group therapy (CBGT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are thought to help patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) via distinct emotion-regulation mechanisms. However, no study has compared the effects of CBGT and MBSR on brain and negative emotion indicators of cognitive reappraisal and acceptance in patients with SAD. Objective:To investigate the effects of CBGT and MBSR on reappraisal and acceptance in patients with SAD and to test whether treatment-associated brain changes are associated with social anxiety symptoms 1 year posttreatment. Design, Setting, and Participants:In this randomized clinical trial, a total of 108 unmedicated adults diagnosed with generalized SAD were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of CBGT, MBSR, or waitlist. The final sample included 31 patients receiving CBGT, 32 patients receiving MBSR, and 32 waitlist patients. Data were collected at the psychology department at Stanford University from September 2012 to December 2014. Data were analyzed from February 2019 to December 2020. Interventions:CBGT and MBSR. Main Outcomes and Measures:Changes in self-reported negative emotion and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal within an a priori-defined brain search region mask derived from a meta-analysis of cognitive reappraisal and attention regulation 1 year posttreatment. Results:Of 108 participants, 60 (56%) were female. The mean (SD) age was 32.7 (8.0) years. Self-reported race and ethnicity data were collected to inform the generalizability of the study to the wider population and to satisfy the requirements of the National Institutes of Health. From the categories provided by the National Institutes of Health, 47 participants selected White (43.5%), 42 selected Asian (38.9%) 10 selected Latinx (9.3%), 1 selected Black (1%), 1 selected Native American (1%), and 7 selected more than 1 race (6.5%). CBGT and MBSR were associated with a significant decrease in negative emotion (partial η2 range, 0.38 to 0.53) with no significant between-group differences when reacting (β, -0.04; SE, 0.09; 95% CI, -0.11 to 0.08; t92 = -0.37; P = .71), reappraising (β, -0.15; SE, 0.09; 95% CI, -0.32 to 0.03; t92 = -1.67; P = .10), or accepting (β, -0.05; SE, 0.08; 95% CI, -0.20 to 0.11; t92 = -0.59; P = .56). There was a significant increase in BOLD percentage signal change in cognitive and attention-regulation regions when reappraising (CBGT = 0.031; MBSR = 0.037) and accepting (CBGT = 0.012; MBSR = 0.077) negative self-beliefs. CBGT and MBSR did not differ in decreased negative emotion and increased reappraisal and acceptance BOLD responses. Reappraisal-associated MBSR (vs CBGT) negative emotions and CBGT (vs MBSR) brain responses were associated with social anxiety symptoms 1 year posttreatment. Conclusions and Relevance:The results of this study suggest that CBGT and MBSR may be effective treatments with long-term benefits for patients with SAD that recruit cognitive and attention-regulation brain networks. Despite contrasting models of therapeutic change, CBT and MBSR may both enhance reappraisal and acceptance emotion regulation strategies. Trial Registration:ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02036658.
The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation.
Tang Yi-Yuan,Hölzel Britta K,Posner Michael I
Nature reviews. Neuroscience
Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation - practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health - exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance. Recent neuroimaging studies have begun to uncover the brain areas and networks that mediate these positive effects. However, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear, and it is apparent that more methodologically rigorous studies are required if we are to gain a full understanding of the neuronal and molecular bases of the changes in the brain that accompany mindfulness meditation.
Reconstructing and deconstructing the self: cognitive mechanisms in meditation practice.
Dahl Cortland J,Lutz Antoine,Davidson Richard J
Trends in cognitive sciences
Scientific research highlights the central role of specific psychological processes, in particular those related to the self, in various forms of human suffering and flourishing. This view is shared by Buddhism and other contemplative and humanistic traditions, which have developed meditation practices to regulate these processes. Building on a previous paper in this journal, we propose a novel classification system that categorizes specific styles of meditation into attentional, constructive, and deconstructive families based on their primary cognitive mechanisms. We suggest that meta-awareness, perspective taking and cognitive reappraisal, and self-inquiry may be important mechanisms in specific families of meditation and that alterations in these processes may be used to target states of experiential fusion, maladaptive self-schema, and cognitive reification.
Meditation Increases the Entropy of Brain Oscillatory Activity.
Martínez Vivot Rocío,Pallavicini Carla,Zamberlan Federico,Vigo Daniel,Tagliazucchi Enzo
We address the hypothesis that the entropy of neural dynamics indexes the intensity and quality of conscious content. Previous work established that serotonergic psychedelics can have a dysregulating effect on brain activity, leading to subjective effects that present a considerable overlap with the phenomenology of certain meditative states. Here we propose that the prolonged practice of meditation results in endogenous increased entropy of brain oscillatory activity. We estimated the entropy of band-specific oscillations during the meditative state of traditions classified as 'focused attention' (Himalayan Yoga), 'open monitoring' (Vipassana), and 'open awareness' (Isha Shoonya Yoga). Among all traditions, Vipassana resulted in the highest entropy increases, predominantly in the alpha and low/high gamma bands. In agreement with previous studies, all meditation traditions increased the global coherence in the gamma band, but also stabilized gamma-range dynamics by lowering the metastability. Finally, machine learning classifiers could successfully generalize between certain pairs of meditation traditions based on the scalp distribution of gamma band entropies. Our results extend previous findings on the spectral changes observed during meditation, showing how long-term practice can lead to the capacity for achieving brain states of high entropy. This constitutes an example of an endogenous, self-induced high entropy state.
Breath Versus Emotions: The Impact of Different Foci of Attention During Mindfulness Meditation on the Experience of Negative and Positive Emotions.
Beblo Thomas,Pelster Sarah,Schilling Christine,Kleinke Kristian,Iffland Benjamin,Driessen Martin,Fernando Silvia
Mindfulness meditation yields beneficial effects on the processing of emotions. However, it is still unclear whether the focus of attention during meditation influences these effects. In the present study we aimed at comparing the effects of breathing meditation and emotion-focused meditation on the immediate and delayed processing of negative and positive emotions. The study included 65 adult novice meditators who were exposed to positively and negatively valenced film clips. Participants were randomly assigned to three conditions. While watching the films at t1, they were asked to mindfully focus on their breath (condition 1), on emotions (condition 2), or on nothing in particular (condition 3). Ten minutes later at t2, comparable film clips were shown but all participants watched them without taking up a mindful attitude. Dependent measures were emotional states at t1 and t2. Participants of both meditation conditions particularly showed a more preferable delayed emotional reaction to negative stimuli than participants of the control condition. Breathing meditation and emotion-focused meditation may constitute effective emotion regulation strategies to deal with negatively valenced emotional states.
Focused attention meditation training modifies neural activity and attention: longitudinal EEG data in non-meditators.
Yoshida Kazuki,Takeda Kenta,Kasai Tetsuko,Makinae Shiika,Murakami Yui,Hasegawa Ai,Sakai Shinya
Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
Focused attention meditation (FAM) is a basic meditation practice that cultivates attentional control and monitoring skills. Cross-sectional studies have highlighted high cognitive performance and discriminative neural activity in experienced meditators. However, a direct relationship between neural activity changes and improvement of attention caused by meditation training remains to be elucidated. To investigate this, we conducted a longitudinal study, which evaluated the results of electroencephalography (EEG) during three-stimulus oddball task, resting state and FAM before and after 8 weeks of FAM training in non-meditators. The FAM training group (n = 17) showed significantly higher P3 amplitude during the oddball task and shorter reaction time (RT) for target stimuli compared to that of the control group (n = 20). Furthermore, a significant negative correlation between F4-Oz theta band phase synchrony index (PSI) during FAM and P3 amplitude during the oddball task and a significant positive correlation between F4-Pz theta band PSI during FAM and P3 amplitude during the oddball task were observed. In contrast, these correlations were not observed in the control group. These findings provide direct evidence of the effectiveness of FAM training and contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the effects of meditation on brain activity and cognitive performance.
Concentrative (Sahaj Samadhi) meditation training and visual awareness: An fMRI study on color afterimages.
Singh Amrendra,Chandrasekhar Pammi V S,Guleria Anupam,Srinivasan Narayanan
Progress in brain research
All of us consciously experience the world around us through our sensory modalities. Empirical studies on the relationship between attention and awareness have shown that attention does influence perceptual experience or appearance in addition to better performance in perceptual tasks. The practice of meditation also changes perceptual experience in addition to better perceptual performance. For example, a study with Sahaj Samadhi meditators utilizing negative color afterimages had shown that concentrative meditation influences visual experience. However the brain regions that are modified by meditation practice leading to such changes in visual experience or awareness are still not known. Here using negative color afterimages in a functional MRI study, we investigated the brain mechanisms underlying the changes in visual awareness as a function of attentional enhancement achieved through long-term concentrative meditation practice. We found increased activity in right lateralized inferior occipital and inferior frontal cortex, which suggests the importance of attentional control in modulating visual awareness. The results of this study indicate that the link between attention and conscious experience is possibly changed by meditation practices.
Can Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment Build Cognitive Reserve and Learn Mindfulness Meditation? Qualitative Theme Analyses from a Small Pilot Study.
Wells Rebecca Erwin,Kerr Catherine,Dossett Michelle L,Danhauer Suzanne C,Sohl Stephanie J,Sachs Bonnie C,Feeley Jacquelyn Walsh,Wolkin Jennifer,Wall Robert,Kaptchuk Ted,Press Daniel Z,Phillips Russell S,Yeh Gloria Y
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE:High levels of chronic stress negatively impact the hippocampus and are associated with increased incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease. While mindfulness meditation may mitigate the effects of chronic stress, it is uncertain if adults with MCI have the capacity to learn mindfulness meditation. METHODS:14 adults with MCI were randomized 2:1 to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a wait-list control group. We conducted qualitative interviews with those who completed MBSR. Transcribed interviews were: a) coded using an emergent themes inductive approach informed by grounded theory; b) rated 0-10, with higher scores reflecting greater perceived benefit from, and understanding of, mindfulness meditation. Ratings were correlated with daily home practice times and baseline level of cognitive function. RESULTS:Seven themes emerged from the interviews: positive perceptions of class; development of mindfulness skills, including meta-cognition; importance of the group experience; enhanced well-being; shift in MCI perspective; decreased stress reactivity and increased relaxation; improvement in interpersonal skills. Ratings of perceived benefit and understanding ranged from 2-10 (mean = 7) and of 0-9.5 (mean = 6), respectively. Many participants experienced substantial benefit/understanding, some had moderate, and a few had minimal benefit/understanding. Understanding the key concepts of mindfulness was highly positively correlated with ≥20 minutes/day of home practice (r = 0.90) but not with baseline cognitive function (r = 0.13). CONCLUSIONS:Most adults with MCI were able to learn mindfulness meditation and had improved MCI acceptance, self-efficacy, and social engagement. Cognitive reserve may be enhanced through a mindfulness meditation program even in patients with MCI.
From State-to-Trait Meditation: Reconfiguration of Central Executive and Default Mode Networks.
Bauer C C C,Whitfield-Gabrieli S,Díaz J L,Pasaye E H,Barrios F A
While brain default mode network (DMN) activation in human subjects has been associated with mind wandering, meditation practice has been found to suppress it and to increase psychological well-being. In addition to DMN activity reduction, experienced meditators (EMs) during meditation practice show an increased connectivity between the DMN and the central executive network (CEN). However, the gradual change between DMN and CEN configuration from pre-meditation, during meditation, and post-meditation is unknown. Here, we investigated the change in DMN and CEN configuration by means of brain activity and functional connectivity (FC) analyses in EMs across three back-to-back functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans: pre-meditation baseline (trait), meditation (state), and post-meditation (state-to-trait). Pre-meditation baseline group comparison was also performed between EMs and healthy controls (HCs). Meditation trait was characterized by a significant reduction in activity and FC within DMN and increased anticorrelations between DMN and CEN. Conversely, meditation state and meditation state-to-trait periods showed increased activity and FC within the DMN and between DMN and CEN. However, the latter anticorrelations were only present in EMs with limited practice. The interactions between networks during these states by means of positive diametric activity (PDA) of the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFFs) defined as [Formula: see text] revealed no trait differences but significant increases during meditation state that persisted in meditation state-to-trait. The gradual reconfiguration in DMN and CEN suggest a neural mechanism by which the CEN negatively regulates the DMN and is probably responsible for the long-term trait changes seen in meditators and reported psychological well-being.
Focused attention meditation changes the boundary and configuration of functional networks in the brain.
Kajimura Shogo,Masuda Naoki,Lau Johnny King L,Murayama Kou
Research has shown that focused attention meditation not only improves our cognitive and motivational functioning (e.g., attention, mental health), it influences the way our brain networks [e.g., default mode network (DMN), fronto-parietal network (FPN), and sensory-motor network (SMN)] function and operate. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the possibility that meditation alters the architecture (composition) of these functional brain networks. Here, using a single-case experimental design with intensive longitudinal data, we examined the effect of mediation practice on intra-individual changes in the composition of whole-brain networks. The results showed that meditation (1) changed the community size (with a number of regions in the FPN being merged into the DMN after meditation) and (2) led to instability in the community allegiance of the regions in the FPN. These results suggest that, in addition to altering specific functional connectivity, meditation leads to reconfiguration of whole-brain network architecture. The reconfiguration of community architecture in the brain provides fruitful information about the neural mechanisms of meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology.
Wielgosz Joseph,Goldberg Simon B,Kral Tammi R A,Dunne John D,Davidson Richard J
Annual review of clinical psychology
Mindfulness meditation is increasingly incorporated into mental health interventions, and theoretical concepts associated with it have influenced basic research on psychopathology. Here, we review the current understanding of mindfulness meditation through the lens of clinical neuroscience, outlining the core capacities targeted by mindfulness meditation and mapping them onto cognitive and affective constructs of the Research Domain Criteria matrix proposed by the National Institute of Mental Health. We review efficacious applications of mindfulness meditation to specific domains of psychopathology including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse, as well as emerging efforts related to attention disorders, traumatic stress, dysregulated eating, and serious mental illness. Priorities for future research include pinpointing mechanisms, refining methodology, and improving implementation. Mindfulness meditation is a promising basis for interventions, with particular potential relevance to psychiatric comorbidity. The successes and challenges of mindfulness meditation research are instructive for broader interactions between contemplative traditions and clinical psychological science.
Zen meditation neutralizes emotional evaluation, but not implicit affective processing of words.
Lusnig Larissa,Radach Ralph,Mueller Christina J,Hofmann Markus J
There is ample evidence that meditation can regulate emotions. It is questionable, however, whether meditation can down-regulate sensitivity to emotional experience in high-level cognitive representations such as words. The present study shows that adept Zen meditators rated the emotional valence of (low-arousal) positive and (high- and low-arousal) negative nouns significantly more neutral after a meditation session, while there was no change of valence ratings after a comparison intervention in the comparison group. Because the Zen group provided greater "openness to experience" and lower "need for achievement and performance" in the "Big Five" personality assessment, we used these scores as covariates for all analyses. We found no differential emotion effects of Zen meditation during lexical decision, but we replicated the slow-down of low-arousal negative words during lexical decision in both groups. Interestingly, Zen meditation elicited a global facilitation of all response times, which we discuss in terms of increased attentional resources after meditation.
Beyond Scientific Mechanisms: Subjective Perceptions with Viniyoga Meditation.
Heeter Carrie,Allbritton Marcel,Bossart Chase
International journal of environmental research and public health
Healthcare professionals and research scientists generally recognize the potential value of mind-body practices grounded in ancient wisdom, but often have limited direct experience with such practices. Meditation participant self-reports provide a window into subjective experiences of three Viniyoga meditations and how and why those meditations could contribute to health and well-being outcomes. Each of the meditations in this analysis had a unique structure and used a different aspect of the ocean as a meditation object. Yoga philosophy and yoga anatomy models of the human system are used to help explain participants' experiences and associated personal benefits and insights. Four aspects of the individual that can influence what happens for them in meditation are illustrated with tangible examples: (1) What is happening in generally in someone's life; (2) the state of their system (mind, body, breath) around the time of the meditation; (3) reactions to the meditation steps and instructions; and (4) their prior experiences with the object of meditation. Summaries of the practices, and why and for whom each meditation might be beneficial are discussed. The authors' perspectives are grounded in Viniyoga and yoga therapy.
Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism.
Iwamoto Sage K,Alexander Marcus,Torres Mark,Irwin Michael R,Christakis Nicholas A,Nishi Akihiro
Clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and improves emotion regulation due to modulation of activity in neural substrates linked to the regulation of emotions and social preferences. However, less was known about whether mindfulness meditation might alter pro-social behavior. Here we examined whether mindfulness meditation activates human altruism, a component of social cooperation. Using a simple donation game, which is a real-world version of the Dictator's Game, we randomly assigned 326 subjects to a mindfulness meditation online session or control and measured their willingness to donate a portion of their payment for participation as a charitable donation. Subjects who underwent the meditation treatment donated at a 2.61 times higher rate than the control (p = 0.005), after controlling for socio-demographics. We also found a larger treatment effect of meditation among those who did not go to college (p < 0.001) and those who were under 25 years of age (p < 0.001), with both subject groups contributing virtually nothing in the control condition. Our results imply high context modularity of human altruism and the development of intervention approaches including mindfulness meditation to increase social cooperation, especially among subjects with low baseline willingness to contribute.
Meditation and Endocrine Health and Wellbeing.
Pascoe Michaela C,Thompson David R,Ski Chantal F
Trends in endocrinology and metabolism: TEM
Meditation is a popular practice for reducing stress and improving mental health and wellbeing. Its effects are mediated largely by the endocrine system, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, and energy homeostasis. The limited evidence available indicates that changes associated with endocrine function following meditation correspond with improvements in mental health. However, this field of study is hampered by a lack of consensus as to definition and types of meditation and the mixed quality of reported studies. Moreover, the exact mechanisms by which meditation operates remain unclear and more robust studies are required to explore this by delineating the target populations, forms, dosages, and modes of delivery of meditation, comparison groups, and health experiences and outcomes used.
Mindfulness meditation is related to sensory-affective uncoupling of pain in trained novice and expert practitioners.
Zorn Jelle,Abdoun Oussama,Bouet Romain,Lutz Antoine
European journal of pain (London, England)
BACKGROUND:Mindfulness meditation can alleviate acute and chronic pain. It has been proposed that mindfulness meditation reduces pain by uncoupling sensory and affective pain dimensions. However, studies to date have reported mixed results, possibly due to a diversity of styles of and expertise in mindfulness meditation. Furthermore, the interrelations between mindfulness meditation and pain catastrophizing during acute pain remain little known. METHODS:This cross-sectional study investigated the effect of a style of mindfulness meditation called Open Monitoring (OM) on sensory and affective pain experience by comparing novice (2-day formal training; average ~20 hr practice) to expert practitioners (>10.000 hr practice). We implemented a paradigm that was designed to amplify the cognitive-affective aspects of pain experience by the manipulation of pain anticipation and uncertainty of stimulus length (8 or 16 s thermal pain stimuli). We collected pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings and assessed trait pain catastrophizing with the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS). RESULTS:Across groups, mindfulness meditation reduced unpleasantness, but not intensity ratings compared to attentional distraction. Experts reported a lower score on PCS, reduced amplification of unpleasantness by long painful stimuli, and larger sensory-affective uncoupling than novices particularly during long painful stimuli. In experts, meditation-induced uncoupling spilled over the control condition. Across groups and task conditions, a higher score on PCS predicted lower sensory-affective uncoupling during long painful stimuli and higher ratings of pain intensity during short painful stimuli. CONCLUSION:These findings suggest that mindfulness meditation specifically down-regulates pain affect as opposed to pain intensity, and that pain catastrophizing undermines sensory-affective uncoupling of pain. SIGNIFICANCE:In this study, we found that a style of mindfulness meditation referred to as OM reduced unpleasantness but not intensity ratings compared to attentional distraction in trained novice (state effect) and expert meditators (state and trait effects). We also observed that trait pain catastrophizing scores predicted this sensory-affective uncoupling. These findings advance our understanding of the cognitive mechanisms underlying mindfulness meditation and can inform treatment strategies for chronic pain.
Brain-Heart Interactions Underlying Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Meditation.
Jiang Haiteng,He Bin,Guo Xiaoli,Wang Xu,Guo Menglin,Wang Zhuo,Xue Ting,Li Han,Xu Tianjiao,Ye Shuai,Suma Daniel,Tong Shanbao,Cui Donghong
Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Despite accumulating evidence suggesting improvement in one's well-being as a result of meditation, little is known about if or how the brain and the periphery interact to produce these behavioral and mental changes. We hypothesize that meditation reflects changes in the neural representations of visceral activity, such as cardiac behavior, and investigated the integration of neural and visceral systems and the spontaneous whole brain spatiotemporal dynamics underlying traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation. In a large cohort of long-term Tibetan Buddhist monk meditation practitioners, we found distinct transient modulations of the neural response to heartbeats in the default mode network (DMN), along with large-scale network reconfigurations in the gamma and theta bands of electroencephalography (EEG) activity induced by meditation. Additionally, temporal-frontal network connectivity in the EEG theta band was negatively correlated with the duration of meditation experience, and gamma oscillations were uniquely, directionally coupled to theta oscillations during meditation. Overall, these data suggest that the neural representation of cardiac activity in the DMN and large-scale spatiotemporal network integrations underlie the fundamental neural mechanism of meditation and further imply that meditation may utilize cortical plasticity, inducing both immediate and long-lasting changes in the intrinsic organization and activity of brain networks.
Activation of the orbitofrontal cortex by both meditation and exercise: A near-infrared spectroscopy study.
Miyashiro Shun,Yamada Yurika,Muta Toshizumi,Ishikawa Haruyuki,Abe Tetsuri,Hori Masashi,Oka Kotaro,Koshikawa Fusako,Ito Etsuro
In some types of meditation, such as mindfulness and Zen, breathing is the focus of attention, whereas during an excessive, short-period of anaerobic exercise, the muscles become the focus of attention. Thus, during both efforts, one's attention is focused on a certain feature of the body. Both meditation and exercise generally provide mental refreshment to humans. We hypothesized that the same brain regions are activated by both efforts in humans. To examine this hypothesis, we engaged participants in 3 tasks: meditation, exercise, and a control task. After each task, the participants underwent a 2-back test to concentrate their thoughts, while changes in their blood hemoglobin levels were simultaneously monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Seventeen participants (20-24 years of age; 11 men, 6 women) were enrolled. We applied a fast-Fourier transform (FFT) analysis to the NIRS wave data and calculated the correlation coefficients of the FFT data between (1) meditation and control, (2) exercise and control, and (3) meditation and exercise, at the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), brain areas that are generally involved in mental refreshment. A significant difference in the correlation coefficients between the OFC and DLPFC was detected in the meditation and exercise analysis, and signal source analysis confirmed that the NIRS waves spread from the right and left OFC edges (i.e., right and left temples) toward the center. Our results suggest that both meditation and exercise activate the OFC, which is involved in emotional reactions and motivation behavior, resulting in mental refreshment.
Compassion meditation increases optimism towards a transgressor.
Koopmann-Holm Birgit,Sze Jocelyn,Jinpa Thupten,Tsai Jeanne L
Cognition & emotion
Past research reveals important connections between meditative practices and compassion. Most studies, however, focus on the effects of one type of meditation (vs. a no-intervention control) on a single expression of compassion (e.g. offering a seat) towards a relatable target (e.g. a person on crutches), without exploring possible mechanisms. Hence, few studies include different types of meditation, active controls, multiple ways to express compassion, unrelatable targets, and potential mediators. To this end, the present study compared the effects of mindfulness meditation with those of compassion meditation on different expressions of compassion towards a convicted murderer. Seventy-four participants were randomly assigned to a mindfulness meditation, compassion meditation, or active control class, or a no-class control. After an 8-week programme, we assessed compassion by giving participants the option of fulfilling a murderer's request that they write him and then coding those letters for empathy, sympathy, forgiveness, and optimism. Participants in the compassion meditation class wrote more optimistic letters compared to participants in the other three conditions, in part because they valued positivity more. No statistically significant differences emerged for the other expressions of compassion. We discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of how meditation increases compassion towards unrelatable targets.
Meditation and telomere length: a meta-analysis.
Schutte Nicola S,Malouff John M,Keng Shian-Ling
Psychology & health
Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes. Short telomeres are a biomarker for worsening health and early death. The present study consolidated research on meditation and telomere length through a meta-analysis of results of studies examining the effect of meditation on telomere length by comparing the telomere length of meditating participants with participants in control conditions. A search of the literature identified 11 studies reporting 12 comparisons of meditating individuals with individuals in control conditions. An overall significant weighted effect size of =.40 indicated that the individuals in meditation conditions had longer telomeres. When an outlier effect size was trimmed from the analysis, the effect size was smaller, =.16. Across studies, a greater number of hours of meditation among participants in meditation conditions was associated with larger effect sizes. These findings provide tentative support for the hypothesis that participants in meditation conditions have longer telomeres than participants in comparison conditions, and that a greater number of hours of meditation is associated with a greater impact on telomere biology. The results of the meta-analysis have potential clinical significance in that they suggest that meditation-based interventions may prevent telomere attrition or increase telomere length.
From many to (n)one: Meditation and the plasticity of the predictive mind.
Laukkonen Ruben E,Slagter Heleen A
Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews
How profoundly can humans change their own minds? In this paper we offer a unifying account of deconstructive meditation under the predictive processing view. We start from simple axioms. First, the brain makes predictions based on past experience, both phylogenetic and ontogenetic. Second, deconstructive meditation brings one closer to the here and now by disengaging anticipatory processes. We propose that practicing meditation therefore gradually reduces counterfactual temporally deep cognition, until all conceptual processing falls away, unveiling a state of pure awareness. Our account also places three main styles of meditation (focused attention, open monitoring, and non-dual) on a single continuum, where each technique relinquishes increasingly engrained habits of prediction, including the predicted self. This deconstruction can also permit certain insights by making the above processes available to introspection. Our framework is consistent with the state of empirical and (neuro)phenomenological evidence and illuminates the top-down plasticity of the predictive mind. Experimental rigor, neurophenomenology, and no-report paradigms are needed to further understanding of how meditation affects predictive processing and the self.
On the Neurobiology of Meditation: Comparison of Three Organizing Strategies to Investigate Brain Patterns during Meditation Practice.
Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania)
Three broad organizing strategies have been used to study meditation practices: (1) consider meditation practices as using similar processes and so combine neural images across a wide range of practices to identify the common underlying brain patterns of meditation practice, (2) consider meditation practices as unique and so investigate individual practices, or (3) consider meditation practices as fitting into larger categories and explore brain patterns within and between categories. The first organizing strategy combines meditation practices defined as deep concentration, attention to external and internal stimuli, and letting go of thoughts. Brain patterns of different procedures would all contribute to the final averages, which may not be representative of any practice. The second organizing strategy generates a multitude of brain patterns as each practice is studied individually. The rich detail of individual differences within each practice makes it difficult to identify reliable patterns between practices. The third organizing principle has been applied in three ways: (1) grouping meditations by their origin-Indian or Buddhist practices, (2) grouping meditations by the procedures of each practice, or (3) grouping meditations by brain wave frequencies reported during each practice. Grouping meditations by their origin mixes practices whose procedures include concentration, mindfulness, or effortless awareness, again resulting in a confounded pattern. Grouping meditations by their described procedures yields defining neural imaging patterns within each category, and clear differences between categories. Grouping meditations by the EEG frequencies associated with their procedures yields an objective system to group meditations and allows practices to "move" into different categories as subjects' meditation experiences change over time, which would be associated with different brain patterns. Exploring meditations within theoretically meaningful categories appears to yield the most reliable picture of meditation practices.
Changes in the Electrical Activity of the Brain in the Alpha and Theta Bands during Prayer and Meditation.
Dobrakowski Paweł,Blaszkiewicz Michal,Skalski Sebastian
International journal of environmental research and public health
Focused attention meditation (FAM) is a category of meditation based on an EEG pattern, which helps the wandering mind to focus on a particular object. It seems that prayer may, in certain respects, be similar to FAM. It is believed that emotional experience correlates mainly with theta, but also with selective alpha, with internalized attention correlating mainly with the synchronous activity of theta and alpha. The vast majority of studies indicate a possible impact of transcendence in meditation on the alpha wave in EEG. No such reports are available for prayer. Seventeen women and nineteen men aged 27-64 years with at least five years of intensive meditation/prayer experience were recruited to participate in the study. We identified the two largest groups which remained in the meditation trend originating from the Buddhist system (14 people) (Buddhist meditators) and in the Christian-based faith (15 people) (Christian meditators). EEG signal was recorded with open eyes, closed eyes, during meditation/prayer, and relaxation. After the EEG recording, an examination was conducted using the Scale of Spiritual Transcendence. Buddhist meditators exhibited a statistically significantly higher theta amplitude at Cz during meditation compared to relaxation. Meanwhile, spiritual openness favored a higher theta amplitude at Pz during relaxation. Our study did not reveal statistically significant differences in frontal areas with regard to alpha and theta, which was often indicated in previous studies. It seems necessary to analyze more closely the midline activity in terms of dispersed neural activity integration.
EEG alpha-theta dynamics during mind wandering in the context of breath focus meditation: An experience sampling approach with novice meditation practitioners.
Rodriguez-Larios Julio,Alaerts Kaat
The European journal of neuroscience
Meditation practice entails moments of distraction dominated by self-generated thoughts (i.e. mind wandering). Initial studies assessing the neural correlates of mind wandering in the context of meditation practice have identified an important role of theta (4-8 Hz) and alpha (8-14 Hz) neural oscillations. In this study, we use a probe-caught experience sampling paradigm to assess spectral changes in the theta-alpha frequency range during mind wandering in the context of breath focus meditation. Electroencephalography (EEG) was measured in 25 novice meditation practitioners during a breath focus task in which they were repeatedly probed to report whether they were focusing on their breath or thinking about something else. Mind wandering episodes were associated with an increase in the amplitude and a decrease in the frequency of theta (4-8 Hz) oscillations. Conversely, alpha oscillations (8-14 Hz) were shown to decrease in amplitude and increase in frequency during mind wandering relative to breath focus. In addition, mind wandering episodes were shown to be accompanied by increased harmonicity and phase synchrony between alpha and theta rhythms. Because similar spectral changes in the theta-alpha frequency range have been reported during controlled cognitive processes involving memory and executive control, we speculate that mind wandering and controlled processes could share some neurocognitive mechanisms. From a translational perspective, this study indicates that oscillatory activity in the theta-alpha frequency range could form adequate parameters for developing EEG-neurofeedback protocols aimed at facilitating the detection of mind wandering during meditation practice.