Improve Cognition in Breast Cancer Patients with Meditation

Improve Cognition in Breast Cancer Patients with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Between diagnosis, treatment, recovery and ongoing treatment, living with cancer is a stressful roller-coaster set on repeat. Meditation is a very useful and powerful tool that can help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions, cultivate compassion and find strength to keep going -maybe even to thrive.” -Jasmin Fiore Dodge

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Cognitive impairments are a frequent side effect of cancer treatment. This has been dubbed “chemo brain.” Patients often refer to it as a mental cloudiness.

 

The patients report problems including forgetting things, trouble concentrating, trouble remembering details like names and dates, trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, taking longer to finish things, disorganized and slower thinking, and trouble remembering common words. These cognitive impairments generally produce problems with work and even social relationships such that patients tend to isolate themselves. They can also produce treatment problems as the patients often forget to take their medications.

 

These problems result from the fact that chemotherapy, radiation therapy and many cancer drugs directly affect the nervous system. At present, there are no known treatments for these cognitive impairment side effects of chemotherapy. Contemplative practices have been shown to affect memory and have positive effects on cancer treatment and recovery.  There is some evidence that contemplative practices may be useful for the alleviation of “chemo brain” symptoms. So, it makes sense to further study the ability of mindfulness training to improve the cancer patient’s cognitive abilities.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tibetan sound meditation for cognitive dysfunction: results of a randomized controlled pilot trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083855/ ), Milbury and colleagues recruited women who had breast cancer and had completed chemotherapy at least 6 months ago. They were randomly assigned to receive either Tibetan Sound Meditation or were assigned to a wait-list control condition. Tibetan Sound Meditation was practiced in twice weekly, 1-hour sessions, for 6 weeks. It included focused meditation, mindfulness development, breathing exercises, and cognitive tasks. The participants were measured before training and one month after the completion of the program for cognitive performance, perceived cognitive function, depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, health related quality of life, and spiritual well-being.

 

They found that after training the women receiving meditation training had significant albeit small improvements in cognitive function including verbal memory, short-term memory, processing speed and significant decreases in perceived cognitive function. Hence the women following meditation treatment had improve objective and subjective cognitive abilities. In addition, the treated women had significantly higher levels of overall mental health and spiritual well-being and lower levels of depression.

 

This was a relatively small pilot study, so it was surprising and encouraging to discover significant improvements. Tibetan Sound Meditation is a complex practice consisting of a number of different practices. It would be interesting to begin to determine which components or combination of components were responsible for the benefits. It would also be interesting to compare the effectiveness of Tibetan Sound Meditation to other forms of meditation practice such as open monitoring meditation or loving kindness meditation.

 

It should be noted that the control condition received no activities other than treatment as usual. So, the results may have been affected by participant and experimenter bias and expectancy effects. It would be better in future studies to use an active control condition such as light exercise of health education. Nevertheless, the results suggest that training in Tibetan Sound Meditation improves the thinking ability and spiritual and mental health of women who completed chemotherapy for breast cancer.

 

So, improve cognition in breast cancer patients with meditation.

 

“Enduring treatment is not only unpleasant, but time-consuming and expensive. Meditation is one method that can be extremely beneficial throughout the healing process. Like many illnesses, breast cancer can be worsened by stress. Meditation can help you reduce stress levels throughout the day.” – Laura Sage

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Milbury, K., Chaoul, A., Biegler, K., Wangyal, T., Spelman, A., Meyers, C. A., … Cohen, L. (2013). Tibetan sound meditation for cognitive dysfunction: results of a randomized controlled pilot trial. Psycho-Oncology, 22(10), 2354–2363. http://doi.org/10.1002/pon.3296

 

Abstract

Objective

Although chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment is common among breast cancer patients, evidence for effective interventions addressing cognitive deficits is limited. This randomized controlled trial examined the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a Tibetan Sound Meditation (TSM) program to improve cognitive function and quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Methods

Forty-seven breast cancer patients (mean age 56.3 years), who were staged I–III at diagnosis, 6–60 months post-chemotherapy, and reported cognitive impairment at study entry were recruited. Participants were randomized to either two weekly TSM sessions for 6 weeks or a wait list control group. Neuropsychological assessments were completed at baseline and 1 month post-treatment. Self-report measures of cognitive function (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT)-Cog), quality of life (SF-36), depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale), sleep disturbance (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), fatigue (Brief Fatigue Inventory), and spirituality (FACT-Sp) were completed at baseline, the end of treatment, and 1 month later.

Results

Relative to the control group, women in the TSM group performed better on the verbal memory test (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test trial 1) (p = 0.06) and the short-term memory and processing speed task (Digit Symbol) (p = 0.09) and reported improved cognitive function (p = 0.06), cognitive abilities (p = 0.08), mental health (p = 0.04), and spirituality (p = 0.05) at the end of treatment but not 1 month later.

Conclusions

This randomized controlled trial revealed that TSM program appears to be a feasible and acceptable intervention and may be associated with short-term improvements in objective and subjective cognitive function as well as mental health and spirituality in breast cancer patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083855/

 

Improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Meditation or Yoga

Improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Meditation or Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation helps bring about the kind of deep self-awareness, or mindfulness, that can create a therapeutic basis for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. We can meet difficult emotions, difficult memories, and difficult experiences through meditation,” Stephanie Lopez

 

Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. Only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); about 7%-8%. PTSD involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback. They often experience negative changes in beliefs and feelings including difficulty experiencing positive or loving feelings toward other people, avoiding relationships, avoiding situations that remind them of the event memory difficulties, or see the world as dangerous and no one can be trusted. Sufferers may feel keyed up and jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They may experience sudden anger or irritability, may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.

 

Obviously, these are serious and troubling symptoms that need to be addressed. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat PTSD. One of which, mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective. Exercise also appears to be effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the meditation and yoga training in treating PTSD.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation and Yoga for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5939561/ ), Gallegos and colleagues reviewed, summarized and performed a meta-analysis of the 19 published randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) of the application of mindfulness training, meditation, and/or yoga for the treatment of the symptoms of PTSD. They found that the research reports that all techniques including mindfulness training, meditation, and yoga produced significant improvements in the symptoms of PTSD regardless of whether they were compared to active or inactive control conditions. They all had moderate to large effect sizes.

 

This summary of the research is very encouraging and suggests that mindfulness, meditation, and yoga training are safe and effective adjunctive treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is not known exactly how these trainings improve PTSD but they are known to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress, improve the regulation of emotions, and reduce worry and rumination, all of which should be beneficial for PTSD sufferers.

 

So, improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with meditation or yoga.

 

“Veterans struggling with the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have new hope in helping to alleviate their symptoms with Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT), according to research that finds the specific yoga practices in its protocol can help improve their physical and psychological well-being.” – Mindful Yoga Therapy

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Gallegos, A. M., Crean, H. F., Pigeon, W. R., & Heffner, K. L. (2017). Meditation and Yoga for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clinical Psychology Review, 58, 115–124. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2017.10.004

 

Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic and debilitating disorder that affects the lives of 7-8% of adults in the U.S. Although several interventions demonstrate clinical effectiveness for treating PTSD, many patients continue to have residual symptoms and ask for a variety of treatment options. Complementary health approaches, such as meditation and yoga, hold promise for treating symptoms of PTSD. This meta-analysis evaluates the effect size (ES) of yoga and meditation on PTSD outcomes in adult patients. We also examined whether the intervention type, PTSD outcome measure, study population, sample size, or control condition moderated the effects of complementary approaches on PTSD outcomes. The studies included were 19 randomized control trials with data on 1,173 participants. A random effects model yielded a statistically significant ES in the small to medium range (ES = −.39, p < .001, 95% CI [−.57, −.22]). There were no appreciable differences between intervention types, study population, outcome measures, or control condition. There was, however, a marginally significant higher ES for sample size ≤ 30 (ES = −.78, k = 5). These findings suggest that meditation and yoga are promising complementary approaches in the treatment of PTSD among adults and warrant further study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5939561/

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they are better able to manage them. Practising mindfulness can give more insight into emotions, boost attention and concentration, and improve relationships.” – Mental Health Foundation

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, online mindfulness training programs have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations.

 

One difficulty with understanding the effects of mindfulness training is that they often contain multiple components such as training on the ideas of mindfulness, practicing mindfulness in everyday activities, meditation, chanting, body scanning, yoga, etc. It cannot be determined then what component or combination of components are responsible for the effects. It would be helpful to compare one form of training with the same training minus single components to begin to isolate what components are necessary and sufficient for the benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Brief Online Mindfulness-Based Intervention in a Non-clinical Population: Replication and Extension.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6061247/ ), Cavanagh and colleagues compared a 2-week online mindfulness training containing meditation with the same training without meditation. They recruited university students and staff to participate in a “Learning Mindfulness online” course and randomly assigned them to receive either mindfulness training, mindfulness training without meditation, or a wait-list control condition.

 

The mindfulness training consisted of a 5-minute mindfulness video and a 2000-word teaching on mindfulness that recommended performing one activity per week mindfully. The training also had a daily guided walking exercise. When meditation was included it consisted of instructions on meditation and a daily 10-minute guided meditation. The participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, depression, perseverative thinking, and a daily questionnaire on the use of training components.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control, both mindfulness training groups had significantly higher levels of mindfulness and significantly lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and perseverative thinking. They also found that perseverative thinking mediated the effects of mindfulness on perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. That is mindfulness was associated with decreased perseverative thinking (worry, rumination) which was, in turn, associated with lower perceived stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

The primary findings that mindfulness training decreases perseverative thinking, perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and that rumination (perseverative thinking is an important mediator http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/anxiety/of the effects, are not new as have been documented repeatedly elsewhere. What is new is that a relatively brief, online, training is sufficient to produce these benefits. The fact that it could be taught exclusively online is important and suggests that mindfulness training can be implemented broadly, at low cost, and great convenience.

 

It was surprising that the inclusion of meditation in the mindfulness training did not add any extra benefits. This may suggest that training on the application of mindfulness to day to day living is the most important component of mindfulness training for producing improvements in the psychological state of otherwise healthy individuals. This suggests that it is using mindfulness in ongoing day to day activities is very important for the training to be effective.

 

So, improve psychological health with mindfulness.

 

“Their analysis indicated that one skill—the ability to consciously focus on moment-to-moment experiences—fully predicted the benefits of mindfulness for work-related maladies.” – Adam Hoffman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Cavanagh, K., Churchard, A., O’Hanlon, P., Mundy, T., Votolato, P., Jones, F., … Strauss, C. (2018). A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Brief Online Mindfulness-Based Intervention in a Non-clinical Population: Replication and Extension. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1191–1205. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0856-1

 

Abstract

Building on previous research, this study compared the effects of two brief, online mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs; with and without formal meditation practice) and a no intervention control group in a non-clinical sample. One hundred and fifty-five university staff and students were randomly allocated to a 2-week, self-guided, online MBI with or without mindfulness meditation practice, or a wait list control. Measures of mindfulness, perceived stress, perseverative thinking and anxiety/depression symptoms within were administered before and after the intervention period. Intention to treat analysis identified significant differences between groups on change over time for all measured outcomes. Participation in the MBIs was associated with significant improvements in all measured domains (all ps < 0.05), with effect sizes in the small to medium range (0.25 to 0.37, 95% CIs 0.11 to 0.56). No significant changes on these measures were found for the control group. Change in perseverative thinking was found to mediate the relationship between condition and improvement on perceived stress and anxiety/depression symptom outcomes. Contrary to our hypotheses, no differences between the intervention conditions were found. Limitations of the study included reliance on self-report data, a relatively high attrition rate and absence of a longer-term follow-up. This study provides evidence in support of the feasibility and effectiveness of brief, self-guided MBIs in a non-clinical population and suggests that reduced perseverative thinking may be a mechanism of change. Our findings provide preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of a mindfulness psychoeducation condition, without an invitation to formal mindfulness meditation practice. Further research is needed to confirm and better understand these results and to test the potential of such interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6061247/

Alter Brain Electrical Activity with Meditation

Alter Brain Electrical Activity with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the most general and consistently observed EEG correlate of meditation is an increase in the power of lower frequencies between 4 and 10 Hz corresponding to the theta band (4-8 Hz) and the lower end  of the alpha band (8-10 Hz).” –  Aaron D. Nitzkin

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. Meditation techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner.

 

One way to observe the effects of meditation techniques is to measure the effects of each technique on the brain’s activity. This can be done by recording the electroencephalogram (EEG). The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. It is usually separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-7.5 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 13-30 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 30-100 cycles per second band.

 

In today’s Research News article “Exploration of Lower Frequency EEG Dynamics and Cortical Alpha Asymmetry in Long-term Rajyoga Meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769196/ ), Sharma and colleagues examine the consequences of practicing Raja Yoga meditation on brain activity. They recruited adult male meditation naïve and also experienced meditators (>10 years experience) and recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) from their scalps before and during meditation.

 

They found that comparing control subjects at rest to the experienced meditators during meditation there was a significant increase in Alpha rhythm power over the frontal and parietal cortexes and Theta rhythm over the medial frontal cortex. They also found that in comparison to controls and to baseline during meditation there was a significant difference in the frontal lobe Alpha power between the hemispheres, where the left hemisphere had significantly greater Alpha power than the right.

 

High Alpha and Theta power indicate that the brain in the affected areas is processing less information, is more at rest. This was particularly true for the left hemisphere which is traditionally thought to be involved in attention and to process high level verbal and mathematical thinking. These results then suggest that during meditation the anterior nervous system, particularly the left hemisphere, is at greater rest than when simply relaxing. This is exactly what is the intent of meditation to lessen thinking and heighten relaxation.  It is not surprising that the nervous system should be different in different states of activity. The fact that it relaxes during meditation would be expected.

 

So, alter brain electrical activity with meditation.

 

Raja Yoga meditation gives you peace of mind and relaxes your body. It helps you develop a positive attitude and respond better to situations” – Ramya Achanta

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Sharma, K., Chandra, S., & Dubey, A. K. (2018). Exploration of Lower Frequency EEG Dynamics and Cortical Alpha Asymmetry in Long-term Rajyoga Meditators. International Journal of Yoga, 11(1), 30–36. http://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_11_17

 

Abstract

Background:

Rajyoga meditation is taught by Prajapita Brahmakumaris World Spiritual University (Brahmakumaris) and has been followed by more than one million followers across the globe. However, rare studies were conducted on physiological aspects of rajyoga meditation using electroencephalography (EEG). Band power and cortical asymmetry were not studied with Rajyoga meditators.

Aims:

This study aims to investigate the effect of regular meditation practice on EEG brain dynamics in low-frequency bands of long-term Rajyoga meditators.

Settings and Design:

Subjects were matched for age in both groups. Lower frequency EEG bands were analyzed in resting and during meditation.

Materials and Methods:

Twenty-one male long-term meditators (LTMs) and same number of controls were selected to participate in study as par inclusion criteria. Semi high-density EEG was recorded before and during meditation in LTM group and resting in control group. The main outcome of the study was spectral power of alpha and theta bands and cortical (hemispherical) asymmetry calculated using band power.

Statistical Analysis:

One-way ANOVA was performed to find the significant difference between EEG spectral properties of groups. Pearson’s Chi-square test was used to find difference among demographics data.

Results:

Results reveal high-band power in alpha and theta spectra in meditators. Cortical asymmetry calculated through EEG power was also found to be high in frontal as well as parietal channels. However, no correlation was seen between the experience of meditation (years, hours) practice and EEG indices.

Conclusion:

Overall findings indicate contribution of smaller frequencies (alpha and theta) while maintaining meditative experience. This suggests a positive impact of meditation on frontal and parietal areas of brain, involved in the processes of regulation of selective and sustained attention as well as provide evidence about their involvement in emotion and cognitive processing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769196/

 

Improve Mood with Brief Meditation

Improve Mood with Brief Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

‘Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. “True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self,” – Burke Lennihan

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. Exercise is also known to improve mood. It is not known how much exercise or meditation is necessary to produce a mood improvement.

 

In today’s Research News article “Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064756/ ), Edwards and Loprinzi recruited young adults and randomly assigned them to either perform a guided breath following meditation, a brisk walk, or a quiet sit for 10 minutes. Before and after the 10-minute intervention the participants were measured for mood states.

 

They found that after the meditation there was a significant improvement in the participants’ overall mood state and after both the meditation and the walk but not the quiet sit, the participants had a significant reduction in fatigue/inertia. It appears that meditation produced a more global mood enhancement while walking produced an activation that overcame feelings of fatigue.

 

It is surprising that only 10 minutes of guided meditation was sufficient to improve mood. This suggests that meditation has great power to affect emotions. It also suggests that simple brief periods of meditation might be used to assist the individual when there’s a need to control their emotions.

 

So. improve mood with brief meditation.

 

“Me, I can’t meditate for shit. Sitting that long, paying attention to my breath or an imaginary white light, chafes my natural impatience. In contrast, hiking easily brings me to that sought-after state of being “in the moment.” – Karin Klein

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Edwards, M. K., & Loprinzi, P. D. (2018). Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. Health Promotion Perspectives, 8(3), 171–178. http://doi.org/10.15171/hpp.2018.23

 

Abstract

Background: To examine the effects of an acute bout of aerobic exercise and meditation on mood state among young adults.

Methods: Participants (N= 66, mean age = 21.3 years) were randomly assigned to walk,meditate, or sit (control) for 10 minutes. Participants’ mood state was monitored before and after the intervention using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire.

Results: Significant group x time interaction effects were observed for the POMS composite scores (P=0.05). When evaluating three POMS sub scales separately (depression/dejection,anger/hostility, and fatigue/inertia), only fatigue/inertia was found to have a significant group x time effect (P=0.04). Post hoc paired t tests revealed that fatigue/inertia sub scale scores significantly decreased from baseline to post-intervention in both the exercise (P=0.03) and meditation (P<0.001) groups. However, POMS composite scores decreased significantly in the meditation group (P<0.001) but not in the exercise group (P=0.10).

Conclusion: A 10-minute bout of brisk walking and meditation both improved mood state,when compared to an inactive control group. A single bout of brisk walking or meditation may offer suitable strategies to improve mood state among young adults.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064756/

Open Monitoring and Focused Meditation Alter Different Brain Systems

Open Monitoring and Focused Meditation Alter Different Brain Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“…In focused attention or concentration meditation, you direct your attention to a chosen object, such as the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils, and you keep your attention focused on that object from moment to moment. 

…In open monitoring meditation — or “open awareness” meditation, as I prefer to call it — you cultivate an “objectless” awareness, which doesn’t focus on any explicit object but remains open and attentive to whatever arises in experience from moment to moment.” – Evan Thompson

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

Two in particular types of meditation can be characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioners, their psychology and their brains. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and has found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028418/ ), Fujino and colleagues recruited experienced meditators and scanned their brains for functional connectivity between structures with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI) while they were engaging in open monitoring meditation, and again when engaging in focused attention meditation. Each f-MRI session was preceded by a week of practicing the appropriate meditation type at home.

 

They found that both meditation types produced decreased functional connectivity between the striatum, a component of the attention neural network and the posterior cingulate cortex a component of the Default Mode Network that is usually active during mind wandering. These findings suggest that both techniques help keep the mind focused and successfully suppress the mind straying from the task at hand.

 

The meditation techniques also produced differences in functional connectivity with open monitoring meditation reducing functional connectivity of the ventral striatum with both the visual cortex and retrosplenial cortex while focused attention meditation increasing this connectivity. In some ways this is not surprising as the striatum – visual cortex connection is thought to be involved in intentional focused attention. It would be expected that  focused attention meditation would strengthen this while open monitoring meditation would weaken it. In addition, the visual cortex is thought to be involved in memory. This suggests that open monitoring meditation may reduce the tendency to have memories interjected into the meditation practice.

 

So, the results are suggestive of similar effects of open monitoring meditation and focused attention meditation on the brain systems maintaining attention and suppressing mind wandering and differing effects on the brain system underlying focused attention and memory. These differing neural changes suggest that the two practices produce different experiential effects on the individual during practice.

 

“Open monitoring meditation is known to make you more creative. And if you feel as though you are stuck in a rut or as though you need to find alternative solutions to problems, then this can be a very effective techniques to use.

Focused attention meditation, as you know, is all about focusing your mind on one thing at a time, often the breath. This is good for improve focus and concentration, for stopping multitasking, and also for various health reasons.” – Paul Harrison

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., & Nomura, M. (2018). Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8, 9968. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28274-4

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation consists of focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM), both of which reduce activation of the default mode network (DMN) and mind-wandering. Although it is known that FAM requires intentional focused attention, the mechanisms of OMM remain largely unknown. To investigate this, we examined striatal functional connectivity in 17 experienced meditators (mean total practice hours = 920.6) during pre-resting, meditation, and post-resting states comparing OMM with FAM, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Both FAM and OMM reduced functional connectivity between the striatum and posterior cingulate cortex, which is a core hub region of the DMN. Furthermore, OMM reduced functional connectivity of the ventral striatum with both the visual cortex related to intentional focused attention in the attentional network and retrosplenial cortex related to memory function in the DMN. In contrast, FAM increased functional connectivity in these regions. Our findings suggest that OMM reduces intentional focused attention and increases detachment from autobiographical memory. This detachment may play an important role in non-judgmental and non-reactive attitude during OMM. These findings provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the contribution of OMM to well-being and happiness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028418/

 

Slow Aging with Meditation

Slow Aging with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“What we do know is that long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” – B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process, starting in the 20s involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. There is interest in finding ways to slow the aging process to improve longevity and health and mindfulness training has been found to do just that.

 

DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells to control gene expression. Epigenetic effects on the DNA arise from the environment and not the genes themselves. DNA methylation can fix genes in the “off” position, preventing them from carrying out their normal function. Indeed, the amount of methylation of DNA is associated with disease and aging. The greater the amount of methylation in the DNA the more disease. It can be thought of as a cellular marker of aging. It is sometimes considered as an epigenetic clock, the greater the age, the more methylation. It is possible that meditation practice slows the aging process by decreasing methylation in the DNA.

 

In today’s Research News article “Epigenetic clock analysis in long-term meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5863232/ ), Chaix and colleagues obtained blood samples from meditation naïve individuals and long-term (> 3 years) meditators. The samples were assayed for methylation in the DNA and this was used to calculate the intrinsic epigenetic age of the individual (the age predicted by the degree of DNA methylation).

 

They found, as expected, that the greater the amount of methylation of the DNA the greater the actual calendar age of the participant for both groups. In the meditation naïve participants those over 52 years of age had significantly higher intrinsic epigenetic ages than those under 52. This is as expected. On the other hand, the long-term meditators over 52 years of age had equivalent intrinsic epigenetic ages to those under 52. The longer the meditators had been practicing the greater the reduction in their intrinsic epigenetic age. It was reduced by 0.24 years for each year of meditation practice.

 

These results suggest a possible mechanism by which meditation practice may slow the aging process. They suggest that meditation practice reduces the methylation in the DNA and perhaps, thereby, helps maintain the DNA’s functional integrity into higher ages. Stress is known to increase DNA methylation. So, it is possible that mindfulness practices reduce methylation in the DNA by reducing the physiological and psychological effects of stress. Regardless, the results suggest that meditation practice slows the changes in the individual’s genetic material that’s associated with aging.

 

So, slow aging with meditation.

 

“According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 20 million Americans practice some form of meditation to achieve greater peace of mind and enhanced sense of well-being. Now studies of the neurological differences between meditators and non-meditators, and studies of immune cell aging via telomere length in meditators and non-meditators, show that meditation can also affect the way we age.” – Seth Segall

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Chaix, R., Alvarez-López, M. J., Fagny, M., Lemee, L., Regnault, B., Davidson, R. J., … Kaliman, P. (2017). Epigenetic clock analysis in long-term meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 85, 210–214. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.016

 

Abstract

In this paper, we examined whether meditation practice influences the epigenetic clock, a strong and reproducible biomarker of biological aging, which is accelerated by cumulative lifetime stress and with age-related chronic diseases. Using the Illumina 450 K array platform, we analyzed the DNA methylome from blood cells of long-term meditators and meditation-naïve controls to estimate their Intrinsic Epigenetic Age Acceleration (IEAA), using Horvath’s calculator. IEAA was similar in both groups. However, controls showed a different IEAA trajectory with aging than meditators: older controls (age ≥ 52) had significantly higher IEAAs compared with younger controls (age < 52), while meditators were protected from this epigenetic aging effect. Notably, in the meditation group, we found a significant negative correlation between IEAA and the number of years of regular meditation practice. From our results, we hypothesize that the cumulative effects of a regular meditation practice may, in the long-term, help to slow the epigenetic clock and could represent a useful preventive strategy for age-related chronic diseases. Longitudinal randomized controlled trials in larger cohorts are warranted to confirm and further characterize these findings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5863232/

 

Improve the Brain’s Attentional Ability with a Meditation Retreat

Improve the Brain’s Attentional Ability with a Meditation Retreat

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Here’s where meditation begins to show itself as a biohacking marvel. Learning how to interrupt one’s reaction pattern – and then doing that over and over – can reshape behaviour. And if behaviour is changing, then the brain is changing.” – Zoe Schlanger

 

Retreat can be a powerful experience. But, it is quite difficult and challenging. It can be very tiring as it can run from early in the morning till late at night every day. It can also be physically challenging as engaging in meditation repeatedly over the day is guaranteed to produce many aches and pains in the legs, back, and neck. But the real challenges are psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Retreat can be a real test.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

Hence, an intensive meditation retreat would be expected to produce neuroplastic changes in the brains of the participants. In today’s Research News article “Effects of a 7-Day Meditation Retreat on the Brain Function of Meditators and Non-Meditators During an Attention Task.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6004402/ ), Kozasa and colleagues recruited meditation naïve and long-term meditators ( > 3 years of experience) and had them engage in a 7-day intensive Zen meditation retreat. Sessions of sitting and walking meditation, yoga, text reading, and meals were scheduled nearly non-stop from 5:10 in the morning till 11:30 at night each day. Before and after the retreat the participants underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI) brain scanning while performing and attention demanding task (Stroop test).

 

They did not find any difference between the novice and experienced meditators in performance of the attention task either before or after the retreat. But, they found considerable differences in their brains. Prior to the retreat during the attention task with distraction the experienced meditators and not the novices had reduced activity in the anterior cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex/anterior cingulate, caudate/putamen/pallidum/temporal lobe (center), insula/putamen/temporal lobe (right) and posterior cingulate. Following the retreat, the novices evidenced similar reductions in activity in these structures.

 

These structures are for the most part components of the so-called default mode network that is activated during mind wandering and self-referential thought. So, the experienced meditators with years of meditative attention training had differences in their brains suggesting better ability to concentrate on the task at hand, with less interference from mind wandering. Surprisingly, novice meditators had similar changes after only 7-day of participation in a meditation retreat. These results suggest that meditation changes the brain to improve concentration and attention. It does so, in part, by reducing the ability of the brain to let the mind wander away from the task at hand.

 

It is interesting that the neuroplastic changes in the brains of the novices essentially caught up to those of the experienced meditators with just 7 days of meditation training. This underscores the power of retreat. It also suggests that meditation can alter the brain relatively quickly. Hence, for improvement of attention, it doesn’t take years of training, it can be accomplished in an intensive week.

 

Improve the brain’s attentional ability with a meditation retreat.

 

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” — Leonardo da Vinci

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kozasa, E. H., Balardin, J. B., Sato, J. R., Chaim, K. T., Lacerda, S. S., Radvany, J., … Amaro Jr., E. (2018). Effects of a 7-Day Meditation Retreat on the Brain Function of Meditators and Non-Meditators During an Attention Task. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 222. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00222

 

Abstract

Meditation as a cognitive enhancement technique is of growing interest in the field of health and research on brain function. The Stroop Word-Color Task (SWCT) has been adapted for neuroimaging studies as an interesting paradigm for the understanding of cognitive control mechanisms. Performance in the SWCT requires both attention and impulse control, which is trained in meditation practices. We presented SWCT inside the MRI equipment to measure the performance of meditators compared with non-meditators before and after a meditation retreat. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of a 7-day Zen intensive meditation training (a retreat) on meditators and non-meditators in this task on performance level and neural mechanisms. Nineteen meditators and 14 non-meditators were scanned before and after a 7-day Zen meditation retreat. No significant differences were found between meditators and non-meditators in the number of the correct responses and response time (RT) during SWCT before and after the retreat. Probably, due to meditators training in attention, their brain activity in the contrast incongruent > neutral during the SWCT in the anterior cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex/anterior cingulate, caudate/putamen/pallidum/temporal lobe (center), insula/putamen/temporal lobe (right) and posterior cingulate before the retreat, were reduced compared with non-meditators. After the meditation retreat, non-meditators had reduced activation in these regions, becoming similar to meditators before the retreat. This result could be interpreted as an increase in the brain efficiency of non-meditators (less brain activation in attention-related regions and same behavioral response) promoted by their intensive training in meditation in only 7 days. On the other hand, meditators showed an increase in brain activation in these regions after the same training. Intensive meditation training (retreat) presented distinct effects on the attention-related regions in meditators and non-meditators probably due to differences in expertise, attention processing as well as neuroplasticity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6004402/

 

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Patients with Multiple Sclerosis with Meditation

Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Patients with Multiple Sclerosis with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and improve sleep in both beginning and experienced meditation practitioners. Since stress has been linked to MS relapses, and meditation has been shown to relieve biological markers of stress, it could help slow MS progression by regulating the body’s stress response.” – Maria Joao Almeida

 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive demyelinating disease which attacks the coating on the neural axons which send messages throughout the body and nervous system. It affects about 2 million people worldwide and about 400,000 in the U.S. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50 years.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are a number of approved medications that are used to treat MS but are designed to lessen frequency of relapses and slow the progression of the disease, but they don’t address individual symptoms.

 

Although there is a progressive deterioration, MS is not fatal with MS patients having about the same life expectancy as the general population. Hence, most MS sufferers have to live with the disease for many years. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. But it is not known what changes in the patients that mindfulness produces that are responsible for the improvements. One possibility is that mindfulness practice may fundamentally alter the enduring personality characteristics of the patients allowing them to better cope with stress and their disease.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Personality and Psychological Well-being in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991502/ ), Crescentini and colleagues recruited adults with Multiple Sclerosis forming a meditation group and a treat-as-usual control group. Meditation training occurred in 8-weekly 2-hour sessions containing training, 30 minutes of meditation followed by discussion. Patients were also asked to meditate daily for 30 minutes at home. The patients were measured before and after training for the Big 5 personality characteristics of neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and openness and also for self-directedness, cooperativeness, self-transcendence, anxiety, depression, and mindfulness.

 

They found that following meditation practice but not treatment-as-usual, there were significant increases in mindfulness and self-maturity as reflected by the self-directedness, cooperativeness, and conscientiousness and a significant decrease in anxiety levels. Mindfulness training has been previously routinely shown to reduce anxiety levels. The changes in personality characteristics produced by meditation in multiple sclerosis patients are interesting and have not been previously reported.

 

The changes in the personality characteristics reflect an increased self-maturity in the patients. The increased conscientiousness, self-directedness, cooperativeness suggests that the meditation practice improves the patients’ ability to take control of their situation and feelings. These appear to result from the increases in thoughtfulness, impulse control, goal-directed behaviors, organization, and mindfulness of details. This greater self-maturity would allow them to better cope with their disease. This is important for effectively living with this life-long disease.

 

So, improve the psychological well-being of patients with Multiple Sclerosis with meditation.

 

“Mindfulness practice appears to be a safe, drug-free approach to coping with stress and anxiety, which may in turn help reduce your MS symptoms.” – Amit Sood

“Mindfulness teaches important life lessons aside from helping you manage chronic symptoms. What you learn through meditation is that life is not perfect, but the journey is very interesting. Along the way, you’ll examine the roses and smell the flowers. You’ll look at that rainbow and say, ‘Wow, that’s incredible!’” – Ruth Geller

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Crescentini, C., Matiz, A., Cimenti, M., Pascoli, E., Eleopra, R., & Fabbro, F. (2018). Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Personality and Psychological Well-being in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis. International Journal of MS Care, 20(3), 101–108. http://doi.org/10.7224/1537-2073.2016-093

 

PRACTICE POINTS

  • Personality changes, a common symptom in patients with MS, are often associated with poor coping and reduced quality of life.
  • We exposed patients with MS to an 8-week mindfulness-oriented meditation course and evaluated the effects on personality traits and anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Mindfulness-oriented meditation led to changes in personality/character traits reflecting the maturity of the self at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels and also led to decreases in trait anxiety.

Abstract

Background:

Varied evidence shows that mindfulness-oriented meditation improves individuals’ mental health, positively influencing practitioners’ personality profiles as well. A limited number of studies are beginning to show that this type of meditation may also be a helpful therapeutic option for persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Methods:

We evaluated the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-oriented meditation training on the personality profiles, anxiety and depression symptoms, and mindfulness skills of a group of patients with MS. A control group of patients with MS not enrolled in any training was also tested.

Results:

After mindfulness-oriented meditation training, participants in this group (n = 15) showed an increase in character traits reflecting the maturity of the self at the intrapersonal (self-directedness) and interpersonal (cooperativeness) levels. Moreover, increased mindfulness and conscientiousness and decreased trait anxiety were observed in participants after the training.

Conclusions:

These data support the utility for patients with MS of therapeutic interventions based on mindfulness meditation that may lead to enhanced character and self-maturity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991502/

 

Improve Attentional Focus with Meditation

Improve Attentional Focus with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“realize that everything we think, feel, say, or do from one moment to the next all ultimately depend on the interactions between attention and awareness. Mindfulness is the optimum interaction between the two. Therefore, by skillfully working with attention and awareness to cultivate mindfulness, we can change everything we think, feel, say, and do for the better. In other words, we can completely transform who we are.” – Travis May

 

One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car.

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves attention by altering the brain. It appears That mindfulness training increases the size, connectivity, and activity of areas of the brain that are involved in paying attention. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training. One method to observe attentional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific stimuli. These are called evoked potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time. The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus.

 

The Pd response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a positive going electrical response occurring between a tenth to 3 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The Pd (distractor positivity) component is thought to reflect an attentional suppression process involved in preventing shifts in attention. The N2pc response is a negative electrical change that occurs around 2 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N2pc response has been associated with the engagement of visual attention, deploying attentional processes when needed. These components of the evoked potential can be used to assess the nature of attentional processing before and after meditation, reflecting how meditation might improve attention.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation Effects on the Control of Involuntary Contingent Reorienting Revealed With Electroencephalographic and Behavioral Evidence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962705/ ), Tsai and colleagues recruited a group of college students who were meditators and a group who were not. They were asked to perform a rapid serial visual presentation task before and after a 30-minute meditation or rest. Order was counterbalanced on two different days. During the task the Electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and event related potentials identified and recorded related to the onset of the target stimulus.

 

The rapid serial visual presentation task consisted of the rapid presentation on a computer screen of three letters on the left, center, and right of the middle of the screen. The subjects were asked to respond by pressing a key with the right hand when the central letter was red and between the letter A to J in the alphabet and with the left hand when the red letter was present and between letter Q to Z. A red letter in the center occurred only once in every 24 trials. New letters were presented very rapidly, every .067 seconds. On occasions a red letter was presented as a distractor in either the left or right position. The participants were instructed to only respond to the letter in the center.

 

They found that when the red distractor was present in the left or right positions performance was significantly less accurate than when it was absent. But, although performance significantly improved after both meditation and rest, it was significantly better after meditation than after rest. In addition, after meditation, the Pd (distractor positivity) component of the evoked potential in response to the presence of a distractor red letter was stronger than after rest.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that after meditation the individual is better able to ignore a distractor and respond more accurately to a target. The EEG results with the evoked potentials suggest that the nervous system, after meditation, becomes better able to suppress responding to distractors in the immediate environment. This suggests that meditation enhances attention by preventing a shift in attention to other stimuli in the environment and thereby maintaining attention on the intended focus. Hence, the results suggest that meditation may improve attention by altering the brain’s processing of the stimuli present making it better able to focus by preventing responding to other stimuli.

 

So, improve attentional focus with meditation.

 

“A long-term study finds that consistent and intensive meditation sessions can have a long-lasting effect on a person’s attention span and other cognitive abilities.” – Rick Nauert

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tsai, S.-Y., Jaiswal, S., Chang, C.-F., Liang, W.-K., Muggleton, N. G., & Juan, C.-H. (2018). Meditation Effects on the Control of Involuntary Contingent Reorienting Revealed With Electroencephalographic and Behavioral Evidence. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 12, 17. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2018.00017

 

Abstract

Prior studies have reported that meditation may improve cognitive functions and those related to attention in particular. Here, the dynamic process of attentional control, which allows subjects to focus attention on their current interests, was investigated. Concentrative meditation aims to cultivate the abilities of continuous focus and redirecting attention from distractions to the object of focus during meditation. However, it remains unclear how meditation may influence attentional reorientation, which involves interaction between both top-down and bottom-up processes. We aimed to investigate the modulating effect of meditation on the mechanisms of contingent reorienting by employing a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) task in conjunction with electrophysiological recording. We recruited 26 meditators who had an average of 2.9 years of meditation experience and a control group comprising 26 individuals without any prior experience of meditation. All subjects performed a 30-min meditation and a rest condition with data collected pre- and post-intervention, with each intervention given on different days. The state effect of meditation improved overall accuracy for all subjects irrespective of their group. A group difference was observed across interventions, showing that meditators were more accurate and more efficient at attentional suppression, represented by a larger Pd (distractor positive) amplitude of event related modes (ERMs), for target-like distractors than the control group. The findings suggested that better attentional control with respect to distractors might be facilitated by acquiring experience of and skills related to meditation training.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962705/