Improve Sleep in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy with Yoga

Improve Sleep in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Sleep disturbance is a common problem for women with breast cancer, and can have a variety of causes, from stress and depression related to the treatment or diagnosis, to a side effect of some of the drugs and anti-nausea medications used in chemotherapy regimens. Yoga not only produced benefits in the short term, it also produced benefits in sleep quality three months and six months after treatment.” – Paul Raeburn

 

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. Fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatiguestress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Yoga practice is a form of mindfulness training that has been shown to be beneficial for cancer patients.  In today’s Research News article “Randomized trial of Tibetan yoga in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5735004/ ), Chaoul and colleagues examine the ability of yoga practice to improve sleep in breast cancer patients.

 

They recruited patients with Stage 1 to 3 breast cancer scheduled to undergo chemotherapy. They were randomly assigned to usual care or to either receive a Tibetan Yoga Program or a stretching program. Participants met for 4, 75 to 90-minute, sessions during chemotherapy and 3 booster sessions over the next 6 months. The participants were also encouraged to practice at home. The Tibetan Yoga Program consisted of “1) mindfulness and focused attention through guided meditation with breathing and visualization; 2) an alternate nostril breathing practice and a breath retention exercise; 3) Tsa Lung movements; and 4) closing with a brief compassion-based meditation.” The participants were measured before and after the programs and 3, 6, and 12 months later for sleep quality, fatigue, and actigraph measured sleep patterns.

 

They found that all groups improved in sleep quality and fatigue over the 12-month measurement period. But the Tibetan Yoga group had significantly less daily sleep disturbances and fewer minutes awake before sleep onset. Hence, participation in the Tibetan Yoga Program had modest benefits for the quality of sleep for the patients. The Tibetan Yoga Program contains a number of different components including meditation, postures, and breathing exercises. It is impossible to determine in the current study which components or which combinations of components were necessary and sufficient for the benefits.

 

These results are encouraging but not clinically significant as the effects were very modest. But,

it should be kept in mind that yoga and meditation programs have been shown to improve a number of other impacts of breast cancer diagnosis and survival. So, the total impact of participation in yoga for breast cancer patients may be much greater than implied by the current results.

 

So, improve sleep in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with yoga.

 

“it is encouraging to see that the women who practiced yoga outside of class had improved sleep outcomes over time. Previous research has established that yoga effectively reduces sleep disturbances for cancer patients, but have not included active control groups or long-term follow-up.” – Lorenzo Cohen

 

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

 

Chaoul, A., Milbury, K., Spelman, A., Basen-Engquist, K., Hall, M. H., Wei, Q., Shih, Y. T., Arun, B., Valero, V., Perkins, G. H., Babiera, G. V., Wangyal, T., Engle, R., Harrison, C. A., Li, Y., … Cohen, L. (2017). Randomized trial of Tibetan yoga in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Cancer, 124(1), 36-45.

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND

This randomized trial examined the effects of a Tibetan yoga program (TYP) versus a stretching program (STP) and usual care (UC) on sleep and fatigue in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

METHODS

Women with stage I–III breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy were randomized to TYP (n=74), STP (n=68), or UC (n=85) groups. Participants in the TYP and STP groups participated in 4 sessions during chemotherapy, followed by three booster sessions over the subsequent 6 months, and encouraged to practice at home. Self-report measures of sleep disturbances (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) fatigue (Brief Fatigue Inventory), and actigraphy were collected at baseline, 1-week post-treatment, and 3, 6 and 12 months.

RESULTS

There were no group differences in total sleep disturbances or fatigue levels over time. However, patients in TYP reported fewer daily disturbances 1-week post-treatment than STP (difference=−0.43, 95% CI: −0.82, −0.04, P=0.03) and UC (difference=−0.41, 95.5% CI: −0.77, −0.05, P=0.02). Group differences at the other time points were maintained for TYP versus STP. Actigraphy data revealed greater minutes awake after sleep onset for STP 1-week post treatment versus TYP (difference=15.36, 95% CI: 7.25,23.48, P=0.0003) and UC (difference=14.48, 95% CI: 7.09,21.87, P=0.0002). Patients in TYP who practiced at least two times a week during follow-up reported better PSQI and actigraphy outcomes at 3 and 6 months post-treatment than those who did not and better than those in UC.

CONCLUSIONS

Participating in TYP during chemotherapy resulted in modest short-term benefits in sleep quality, with long-term benefits emerging over time for those who practiced TYP at least two times a week.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5735004/

 

Change the Brain for Greater Well-Being with Meditation

Change the Brain for Greater Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation provides experiences that the mind can achieve no other way, such as inner silence and expanded awareness. And as the mind gains experience, the brain shows physical activity as well—sometimes profound changes.” – Depak Chopra

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that mindfulness practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. 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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Short‐term Sahaja Yoga meditation training modulates brain structure and spontaneous activity in the executive control network.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6346416/pdf/BRB3-9-e01159.pdf ), Dodich and colleagues recruited meditation naïve college students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 1-hour Sahaja yoga meditation practice 4 times per week for 4 weeks. Sahaja yoga meditation is an open monitoring meditation technique designed to produce mental silence. The participants underwent brain scans with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) before and after the 4 weeks of meditation training.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list controls, the participants who received meditation training and practice had significant increases in the brain grey matter density in the inferior frontal gyrus. They also found that the greater the grey matter density the greater the self-reported well-being by the meditation participants.

 

The inferior frontal gyrus is known to be involved in attention, self-control, and self-awareness. These are exactly the skills trained in meditation practice. This suggests that this relatively short-term practice produces neuroplastic changes in the brain expanding the brain matter in the regions underlying the trained skills and this is associated with improved well-being.

 

So, change the brain for greater well-being with meditation.

 

“So, what’s the best way to build a better brain? Backed by 1000’s of studies, meditation is the neuroscientific community’s most proven way to upgrade the human brain.” – EOC Institute

 

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

 

Dodich A, Zollo M, Crespi C, et al. Short‐term Sahaja Yoga meditation training modulates brain structure and spontaneous activity in the executive control network. Brain Behav. 2019;9:e01159. https://doi.org/10.1002/ brb3.1159

 

Abstract Introduction: While cross‐sectional studies have shown neural changes in long‐term meditators, they might be confounded by self‐selection and potential baseline differences between meditators and non meditators. Prospective longitudinal studies of the effects of meditation in naïve subjects are more conclusive with respect to causal inferences, but related evidence is so far limited. Methods: Here, we assessed the effects of a 4‐week Sahaja Yoga meditation training on gray matter density and spontaneous resting‐state brain activity in a group of 12 meditation‐naïve healthy adults. Results: Compared with 30 control subjects, the participants to meditation training showed increased gray matter density and changes in the coherence of intrinsic brain activity in two adjacent regions of the right inferior frontal gyrus encompassing the anterior component of the executive control network. Both these measures correlated with self‐reported well‐being scores in the meditation group. Conclusions: The significant impact of a brief meditation training on brain regions associated with attention, self‐control, and self‐awareness may reflect the engagement of cognitive control skills in searching for a state of mental silence, a distinctive feature of Sahaja Yoga meditation. The manifold implications of these findings involve both managerial and rehabilitative settings concerned with well‐being and emotional state in normal and pathological conditions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6346416/pdf/BRB3-9-e01159.pdf

 

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Online Meditation Practice

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Online Meditation Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The good news is that there are steps we can take right now to make the goal of “aging gracefully” more attainable. Mindfulness training is one of those steps; research has clearly shown that regular meditation comes with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional health benefits should particularly interest seniors.” – Mindworks

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development but regret their decline during aging. As we age, there are systematic progressive declines in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities and results in impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Aging also results in changes in mental health. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased loneliness, worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to improve mental health in the elderly. In addition, the elderly frequently have mobility issues and going to a treatment facility may be challenging. A promising alternative is online mindfulness programs. It is not known, however, whether these will be acceptable and effective in elderly populations.

 

In today’s Research News article “Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313401/pdf/medicines-05-00119.pdf ), Wahbeh and colleagues recruited older adults aged 55 to 80 years who were not currently meditators and demonstrated symptoms of depression. They were randomly assigned either to a wait list control group or to receive 6 weeks of online 1-hour once a week meditation training with 20 minutes daily guided meditations to be practiced at their convenience. Meditation included both body scan and sitting meditations. The participants were measured before and after training and 7 weeks later for mindfulness depression, resilience, spiritual experiences, insomnia, pain, perceived stress, and satisfaction with the intervention.

 

They found that in comparison to the baseline and the wait list control participants after meditation practice there were significant reductions in depression, insomnia, perceived stress, and pain interference, and significant increases in spirituality. These effects were maintained at follow-up 7 weeks after the end of treatment.

 

These are important findings. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques 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 schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. The online mindfulness training program has tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. These advantages are particularly important for elderly individuals. In addition, there is evidence that mindfulness programs delivered online can be quite effective.

 

The current findings demonstrate that online meditation training can be successfully implemented with older adults with symptoms of depression and that this program can produce significant improvements in the mental health of the participants. This suggests that such programs can be widely and inexpensively distributed over the internet to improve the well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve mental health in older adults with online meditation practice.

 

Meditation – not just medication – is an effective treatment for elderly patients with late-life depression.” – Jennifer Bieman

 

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

 

Helané Wahbeh. Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults. Medicines (Basel) 2018 Dec; 5(4): 119. Published online 2018 Nov 2. doi: 10.3390/medicines5040119

 

Abstract: Background: Older adults have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress. Mindfulness meditation has the potential to be an effective treatment for depression, but little research has been conducted on older adults. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate depression symptom changes in older adults (55–80 years old) taking an Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) compared to a waitlist control. The secondary aims were to collect data on pain, perceived stress, resilience, mindfulness, sleep quality, and spirituality. Methods: Fifty older adults were randomized to either the Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention, a six-week online intervention with daily home practice, or a waitlist control. Measures were collected at baseline, after the six-week intervention period, and again six weeks later after the waitlist participants completed IMMI. Adherence to home practice was objectively measured with iMINDr. Changes in outcomes for the IMMI and waitlist participants were compared. All participants who completed IMMI were then combined for a within-participant analysis. Results: Adherence to the intervention was low, likely due to a traumatic event in the local area of the participants. Compared to the waitlist participants, those in IMMI had improved depression symptoms (p < 0.00005), perceived stress (p = 0.0007), insomnia symptoms (p = 0.0009), and pain severity (p = 0.05). In the within-participant analysis of all data before and after IMMI (i.e., those initially randomized to IMMI and waitlist participants who took it), we found improvements in depression symptoms (p = 0.0001), perceived stress (p = 0.0001), insomnia symptoms (p < 0.00005), pain interference (p = 0.003), and spirituality (p = 0.018). A seven-week follow-up after the original six-week IMMI program showed sustained improvements in the IMMI participants. Conclusions: IMMI improved depression and related symptoms compared to controls despite minimal support from study staff. IMMI offers a low-dose, low-cost, easily accessible mindfulness meditation intervention for older adults with depression symptoms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313401/pdf/medicines-05-00119.pdf

 

Improve Creativity with Cyclic Meditation

Improve Creativity with Cyclic Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.” – Eckhart Tolle

Problem solving most frequently involves logic and reasoning, sometimes along with mathematics. In this case focused attention is the key. The mind wandering off topic interferes with the concentration required for obtaining the solution. But when a solution does not occur and the individual fails to solve the problem a completely different process transpires producing insight. If logic and reason fail, then fanciful and out-of-the box thinking may be needed. In this case mind wandering, taking the thought process away from the failed logical strategy, is superior, often producing a solution in a flash, an “aha” moment. In this case focused attention prevents the individual from seeing an unusual or creative solution. While the mind wandering off topic increases the discursive thinking that is required for obtaining the insightful solution.

 

Perhaps the best method to improve creativity and problem solving is to practice both activating and relaxing mindfulness practices. This occurs in cyclic meditation which involves yoga poses (Activation) and meditative relaxation (calming). It is not known whether cyclic meditation can enhance creative thinking and if so, how it might be affecting brain activity.

 

In today’s Research News article “Association between Cyclic Meditation and Creative Cognition: Optimizing Connectivity between the Frontal and Parietal Lobes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329224/ ), Shetkar and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to receive 7 daily 35 minute sessions of either cyclic meditation or supine rest (Shavasana). Participants were measured before and after treatment for creative (divergent) thinking. During rest, creativity testing and cyclic meditation the participants had their brain activity measured with an electroencephalograph (EEG).

 

They found that after training in comparison to control participants there was a significant increase (18%) in creativity in the cyclic meditation group including large increases in fluency, originality, elaboration, and flexibility. They also found that brain activity in the gamma frequency bands (high frequency, 25 to 100 cycles per second) of the EEG increased in the frontal and parietal lobes after cyclic meditation practice with indications of increased connectivity between these lobes. The frontal lobes have long been associated with higher level thinking including creative thought.

 

These are very interesting results. Cyclic meditation is different from relaxation in its use of yoga postures and guided meditation. It remains for future research to determine which of these components or both are necessary and sufficient for producing the improvements in creativity. The findings suggest that engaging in cyclic meditation enhances activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for higher level cognitive functions and as a result enhances creative thinking. It also remains for future research to determine if these effects are lasting or are only present in the immediate aftermath of training.

 

So, improve creativity with cyclic meditation.

 

A state of conscious awareness resulting from living in the moment is not sufficient for creativity to come about. To be creative, you need to have, or be trained in, the ability to observe, notice, and attend to phenomena that pass your mind’s eye.” – Matthijs Baas

 

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

 

Shetkar, R. M., Hankey, A., Nagendra, H. R., & Pradhan, B. (2019). Association between Cyclic Meditation and Creative Cognition: Optimizing Connectivity between the Frontal and Parietal Lobes. International journal of yoga, 12(1), 29-36.

 

Abstract

Background:

Important stages of creativity include preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Earlier studies have reported that some techniques of meditation promote creativity but have not specified which stage is enhanced. Here, we report the influence of cyclic meditation (CM) on creative cognition measured by a divergent thinking task. Our aim was to determine the degree of association between the two.

Methods:

Twenty-four university students were randomly assigned to an experimental group (CM) and controls (Supine Rest), 35 min/day for 7 days. Creativity performance was assessed pre and post using Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA), while 64-channel electroencephalography (EEG) was used to measure brain activity during both CM/SH and the creativity test.

Results:

Results indicated that CM training improved creativity performance, producing a shift to predominant gamma activity during creativity compared controls who showed delta activity. Furthermore, the experimental group showed more activation of frontal and parietal regions (EEG leads F3, F4 and P3, P4) than controls, i.e., the regions of the executive network responsible for creative cognition, our particular regions of interest where specialized knowledge is being stored.

Conclusion:

Improvement on creativity test performance indicates that CM increases association and strengthens the connectivity between frontal and parietal lobes, the major nodes of default mode network and executive attention network, enhancing the important stages of creativity such as preparation, incubation, and illumination.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329224/

 

Improve Brain Connectivity with Meditation

Improve Brain Connectivity with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.“ – Alice Walton

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function and emotion regulation and compassion. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from thinking to mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how mindfulness training could produce such widespread and varied benefits. One possibility is that mindfulness practice results in beneficial changes in the nervous system.

 

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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. The changes are complex and require sophisticated brain scanning techniques to detect. Hence there is a need to continue investigating the nature of these changes in the brain produced by meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differences in Functional Connectivity of the Insula Between Brain Wave Vibration in Meditators and Non-meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244630/ ), Jang and colleagues recruited meditation practitioners and meditation naïve participants. The meditation practitioners had been practicing Brain Wave Meditation daily for at least a year. This meditation technique “is designed to help quiet the thinking mind and release negative emotions by performing specific rhythmic physical movements and focusing on bodily sensations.” The participants then underwent resting functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of their brains.

 

They found that in comparison to the meditation naïve controls the meditators had greater levels of functional connectivity between the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex and the Insula and Thalamus. There was also increased functional connectivity between the Insula and the Superior Temporal Gyrus. The Insula Cortex is thought to be involved in interoceptive awareness, that is the awareness of the body and the sensations from the body. The Thalamus is the major sensory relay in the brain transferring sensory information throughout the brain. The Prefrontal Cortex is thought to be involved in attention and higher-level thinking, cognition.

 

The findings, then, suggest that meditation practice changes the brain in such a way as to improve attention and thought processes regarding internal sensations. This implies better attention to emotional states and better ability to regulate emotions. Indeed, it has been well established that meditation practice improves attention, high level thinking and emotion regulation. This, in turn, may underlie the increases in compassion toward the self and others that has been shown to occur in meditators. Better emotion regulation would increase psychological and physical well-being of practitioners. Thus, some of the benefits of meditation appear to be reflected in changes to the brain which may underlie these benefits.

 

So, improve brain connectivity with meditation.

 

an added bonus of meditating is that the connection between the helpful aspects of the Me Center (i.e. dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) – the part involved in processing information related to people we perceive as being not like us – and the bodily sensation center – involved in empathy – becomes stronger.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

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

 

Jang, J. H., Kim, J. H., Yun, J. Y., Choi, S. H., An, S. C., & Kang, D. H. (2018). Differences in Functional Connectivity of the Insula Between Brain Wave Vibration in Meditators and Non-meditators. Mindfulness, 9(6), 1857-1866.

 

Abstract

The majority of meditation involves focusing attention on internal events or sensations and becoming aware of emotions. The insula cortex, through a functional connection with the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions, plays a key role in integrating external sensory information with internal bodily state signals and emotional awareness. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the resting-state functional connectivity of the insula with other brain regions in meditation practitioners and control subjects. Thirty-five Brain Wave Vibration meditation practitioners and 33 controls without meditation experience were included in this study. All subjects underwent 4.68-min resting-state functional scanning runs using magnetic resonance imaging. The anterior and posterior insulae were chosen as seed regions for the functional connectivity map. Meditation practitioners showed significantly greater insula-related functional connectivity in the thalamus, caudate, middle frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus than did controls. Control subjects demonstrated greater functional connectivity with the posterior insula in the parahippocampal gyrus. Our findings suggest that the practice of Brain Wave Vibration meditation may be associated with functional differences in regions related to focused attention, executive control, and emotional awareness and regulation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244630/

 

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Meditation

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In mindfulness practice you have an opportunity—the mental time and space, if you will—to see more elements of the story, a richer picture. “You may see more clearly as you anticipate a difficult encounter what the underlying emotion is that’s triggered and how it’s showing up in your body.” In this way, you become aware of the full context of the story, like seeing a flower opening in slow-motion photography. With this awareness, over time “your solid belief in a storyline may begin to erode.” – Zindel Segal

 

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 practice has been found to improve the regulation of emotions and reduce difficult emotional states such as anxiety and depression.

 

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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. Meditation practice has been shown to change the brain and the brain’s reaction to emotions. The activity of the amygdala in the brain is highly associated with emotions. Hence, it would appear likely that meditation practice may alter the amygdala’s activity in response to emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Atypical Anxiety-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Functional Connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288484/ ), Chen and colleagues recruited healthy highly experienced meditators and healthy meditation naive participants. The meditators practiced Sant Mat meditation for 4 hours per day and had been practicing for at least 4 years. They also had a vegetarian diet and abstained from alcohol. The meditation practice incorporated loving kindness meditation.

 

All participants were measured for their state anxiety and their trait anxiety. The participants viewed colorized pictures of faces while their brain activity was monitored with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They were asked to ignore everything about the faces except their color which they responded to with a button press. The faces were both male and female expressing either happy, fearful, or neutral emotions.

 

They found that the meditators were significantly less anxious than the controls in both state and trait anxiety and the greater the number of years of meditation experience the lower the levels of anxiety. The meditators were also significantly slower in responding to the faces color. Slower responding has been associated with lower anxiety. It is well documented that meditation practice lowers anxiety. So, the lower levels in the meditators and slower responding were expected.

 

In terms of the brain amygdala responses to the face stimuli, the meditators had significantly lower responses regardless of the emotion portrayed. In addition, the meditators had a stronger amygdala response to happy faces than fearful faces while the controls had the opposite pattern with higher amygdala responses to fearful faces than happy faces. Mediation analysis indicated that the years of meditation experience was directly related to lower anxiety but the amygdala response partly meditated the effect such that the more years of meditation experience the lower the response of the amygdala and the lower the levels of anxiety.

 

These are interesting and entirely consistent results. The amygdala is known to be involved in emotionality. The results suggest that meditation experience alters the amygdala to respond less to emotional stimuli and to respond more to positive emotional stimuli than negative emotional stimuli. These lower responses may be the source of the effect of meditation practice of improved regulation of emotions. The greater responses of the amygdala in meditators to positive emotional stimuli may be the source of the effect of meditation practice of increased happiness.

 

It needs to be recognized that the meditators also had vegetarian diets and abstained from alcohol while the meditation naïve participants did not. It is possible that the differences observed stemmed from these differences rather than the meditation. It should also be noted that the meditators practiced 4 hours per day which is much more than most meditators, placing these meditators as outliers of amounts of meditation practice. Whether similar results may be observed with lower levels of meditation practice should be an important question for future research.

 

So, change the brain to reduce anxiety with meditation.

 

To me, this amazing brain science and the very real rewards gained from meditation combine to form a compelling argument for developing and/or maintaining a daily practice. It definitely motivates me on those days I don’t “feel” like sitting. So, try to remind yourself that meditating every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, will keep those newly formed connections strong and those unhelpful ones of the past at bay.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

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

 

Chen, C., Chen, Y. C., Chen, K. L., & Cheng, Y. (2018). Atypical Anxiety-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Functional Connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 12, 298. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00298

 

Abstract

While meditation has drawn much attention in cognitive neuroscience, the neural mechanisms underlying its emotional processing remains elusive. Sant Mat meditators were recruited, who adopt a loving-kindness mode of meditation along with a vegetarian diet and an alcohol-restricted lifestyle and novices. We assessed their State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and scanned their amygdala reactivity in response to an explicit and implicit (backward masked) perception of fearful and happy faces. In contrast with novices, meditators reported lower STAI scores. Meditators showed stronger amygdala reactivity to explicit happiness than to fear, whereas novices exhibited the opposite pattern. The amygdala reactivity was reduced in meditators regardless of implicit fear or happiness. Those who had more lifetime practice in meditation reported lower STAI and showed a weaker amygdala response to fear. Furthermore, the amygdala in meditators, relative to novices, had a stronger positive functional connectivity with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) to explicit happiness, but a more negative connectivity with the insula and medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) to explicit fear. Mediation analysis indicated the amygdala reactivity as the mediator for the linkage between meditation experience and trait anxiety. The findings demonstrate the neural correlates that underpin the beneficial effects of meditation in Sant Mat. Long-term meditation could be functionally coupled with the amygdala reactivity to explicit and implicit emotional processing, which would help reduce anxiety and potentially enhance well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288484/

 

Mindfulness Measured by Paper and Pencil Test does Not Predicts Real World Behavior

Mindfulness Measured by Paper and Pencil Test does Not Predicts Real World Behavior

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I’m recognizing as I write this that even this moment will come and pass, and as I feel that, I notice some relief in my chest and my shoulders widening and releasing to let my heart relax. I’m being mindful that my day is winding down, and the thought is hitting me: “the work before me will get done.”- Elizabeth Ann Rue

 

A prerequisite in science is that in order to study something you have to be able to reliably and validly measure it. With many concepts such as mindfulness, depression, and anxiety that reflect subjective states, there are currently no objective means to measure them. Measurement then falls to some kind of after the fact test or to a self-report. Traditionally, mindfulness has been measured with paper and pencil psychometric tests, such as the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire. They ask the participant to answer the question in regard to their overall, general state of mindfulness.  It is unclear whether these subjective questionnaire reports are reliable, accurate, and honest and whether they relate to actual behavior of people in their natural, everyday environments. Hence it is important to investigate whether the results of these self-report tests actually predict what the people will do in their everyday life.

 

In today’s Research News article “Dispositional mindfulness in daily life: A naturalistic observation study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261408/ ), Kaplan and colleagues performed two studies to determine first what people expect the behavior of mindful people to look like and second whether actual behavior conforms to these expectations. In a first study they recruited adults online and had them complete measures of their perceptions of the behavior of mindful people. They found that “laypersons assume that mindfulness relates to (1) attention to sensory perceptions, (2) emotional positivity, (3) quality social interactions, and (4) a prosocial orientation in daily life.”

 

In a second study, they recruited adults and randomly assigned them to either a control condition or to receive 8 weeks of meditation training they were measured before and after training for mindfulness and personality characteristics and wore a recording device over a weekend that recorded 50 seconds of sounds every 9 minutes. The sound samples were transcribed and analyzed for amount of time talking to others, positive and negative words, perception words (e.g., hear, see, feel, soft, loud), substantive, meaningful, conversations, and prosocial orientation (gratitude, affection, gossip, complaining).

 

They found that the level of mindfulness of the participant was positively related to the perceptual orientation, use of words indicating sensations, but was not reliably associated with positivity, negativity, social interactions, prosocial, or antisocial interactions. Hence, the actual observations of the participants behavior were not in line with the expectations people have about the behavior of mindful people.

 

The results suggest that mindful people are more tuned into their perceptual worlds, which is an expectation about the present moment awareness of mindful people. But, in other ways, people high in trait mindfulness were not especially socially, emotionally, or prosocially oriented. This may indicate that mindfulness measured with paper and pencil tests is not a valid indicator of actual mindful behavior. On the other hand, they may indicate that peoples expectations about the observable behavior of mindful people are incorrect.

 

This study is important in that it investigated actual, objectively defined behaviors by people that are expressed in their natural, everyday environments. This kind of analysis may prove to be a better actual measure of mindfulness than questionnaires and tests. It remains for future research to investigate this more thoroughly. But this study opens up a new and potentially important realm for the investigation of mindfulness.

 

How often have you rushed out the door and into your day without even thinking about how you’d like things to go? Before you know it, something or someone has rubbed you the wrong way, and you’ve reacted automatically with frustration, impatience, or rage—in other words, you’ve found yourself acting in a way you never intended. You don’t have to be stuck in these patterns. Pausing to practice mindfulness for just a few minutes at different times during the day can help your days be better, more in line with how you’d like them to be.” – Parneet Pal

 

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

 

Kaplan, D. M., Raison, C. L., Milek, A., Tackman, A. M., Pace, T., & Mehl, M. R. (2018). Dispositional mindfulness in daily life: A naturalistic observation study. PloS one, 13(11), e0206029. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0206029

 

Abstract

Mindfulness has seen an extraordinary rise as a scientific construct, yet surprisingly little is known about how it manifests behaviorally in daily life. The present study identifies assumptions regarding how mindfulness relates to behavior and contrasts them against actual behavioral manifestations of trait mindfulness in daily life. Study 1 (N = 427) shows that mindfulness is assumed to relate to emotional positivity, quality social interactions, prosocial orientation and attention to sensory perceptions. In Study 2, 185 participants completed a gold-standard, self-reported mindfulness measure (the FFMQ) and underwent naturalistic observation sampling to assess their daily behaviors. Trait mindfulness was robustly related to a heightened perceptual focus in conversations. However, it was not related to behavioral and speech markers of emotional positivity, quality social interactions, or prosocial orientation. These findings suggest that the subjective and self-reported experience of being mindful in daily life is expressed primarily through sharpened perceptual attention, rather than through other behavioral or social differences. This highlights the need for ecological models of how dispositional mindfulness “works” in daily life, and raises questions about the measurement of mindfulness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261408/

 

Meditation Alters Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli

Meditation Alters Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation facilitates strengthening the Assessment Center, weakening the unhelpful aspects of the Me Center (that can cause you to take things personally), strengthening the helpful parts of the Me Center (involved with empathy and understanding others) and changing the connections to/from the bodily sensation/fear centers such that you experience sensations in a less reactive, more balanced and holistic way. In a very real way, you literally are changing your brain for the better when you meditate.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from thinking to mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how mindfulness training could produce such widespread and varied benefits.

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to produce improved 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 emotions. This ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation may be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health.

 

Mindfulness practices may result in beneficial changes in the nervous system that underlie emotion regulation. 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, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Does Meditation Alter Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli? A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243128/ ), Magalhaes and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the ability of mindful practice to alter brain responses to improve the regulation of emotions especially reactions to negative events.

 

They identified 11 published studies that used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to assess brain responses to negative stimuli before and after mindfulness training. Six of these studies involved a comparison to a control group while five involved before after comparisons. They found that the research, in general, indicated that mindfulness training resulted in greater activation of the frontal and prefrontal cortical regions of the brain in response to negative emotion eliciting stimuli. A number of studies also identified greater activation of the insular cortical region.

 

These are interesting findings as the frontal and prefrontal cortical regions have been identified as involved in higher level thought processes and particularly attentional processes. This suggests that a top down, cognitive, regulation of emotion is elicited to negative stimuli. Hence, it appears that individuals, trained in mindfulness, deal with negative emotions with attention and reason, analyzing the reality of the situation, and thereby responding less intensely and more adaptively and appropriately.

 

The insular region has been shown to be involved in body sense, particularly interoceptive awareness of the state of the body. Its heightened response to negative stimuli after mindfulness training suggests that trained individuals have a heightened sense of how their bodies are responding to a negative emotion. Many people are unaware of their physiological reactions to emotions. By improving this internal awareness mindfulness training may make individuals better able to detect when a emotion is arising and thereby better able to regulate it.

 

Hence, the published research indicates that mindfulness training results in changes to the brain that improve the detection of emotional reactions and the ability to attend to and rationally process the conditions that elicited them. These neuroplastic changes to the brain may underlie the ability of mindfulness training to enhance emotion regulation in response to negative situations and thereby improve the mental health of practitioners.

 

“Now, as the popularity of mindfulness grows, brain imaging techniques are revealing that this ancient practice can profoundly change the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other – and therefore how we think – permanently.” – Tom Ireland

 

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

 

Magalhaes, A. A., Oliveira, L., Pereira, M. G., & Menezes, C. B. (2018). Does Meditation Alter Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli? A Systematic Review. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 448. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00448

 

Abstract

Background: Despite several attempts to review and explain how meditation alters the brain and facilitates emotion regulation, the extent to which meditation and emotion regulation strategies share the same neural mechanisms remains unclear.

Objective: We aim to understand the influence of meditation on the neural processing of negative emotional stimuli in participants who underwent meditation interventions (naive meditators) and long-term meditators.

Methodology: A systematic review was conducted using standardized search operators that included the presence of terms related to emotion, meditation and neuro-imaging techniques in PsycInfo, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases.

Results: Searches identified 882 papers, of which 11 were eligible for inclusion. Results showed a predominance of greater prefrontal/frontal activity related to meditation, which might indicate the increased recruitment of cognitive/attentional control resources in naïve and long-term meditators. This increased frontal activity was also observed when participants were asked to simply react to negative stimuli. Findings from emotion-related areas were scarce but suggested increased insular activity in meditators, potentially indicating that meditation might be associated with greater bodily awareness.

Conclusions: Meditation practice prompts regulatory mechanisms when participants face aversive stimuli, even without an explicit request. Moreover, some studies reported increased insular activity in meditators, consistent with the hypothesis that meditation helps foster an interoceptive awareness of bodily and emotional states.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243128/

 

Meditation’s Reduction of Pain is Independent of Brain Opioid Systems

Meditation’s Reduction of Pain is Independent of Brain Opioid Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Bit by bit, as I sat noticing my breath and body sensations, I began to feel the deep knots of pain in my body start to untie themselves.” – Avi Craimer

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. Opioids act on a system in the brain that contains receptors that respond to these drugs. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

Pain involves both physical and psychological issues. The stress, fear, and anxiety produced by pain tends to elicit responses that actually amplify the pain. So, reducing the emotional reactions to pain may be helpful in pain management. There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that mind-body therapies have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve emotion regulation producing more adaptive and less maladaptive responses to emotions. Indeed, mindfulness practices are effective in treating pain in adults. It is not known whether meditations effects on pain are mediated by the same system that responds to opioids.

 

In today’s Research News article “Enhancement of Meditation Analgesia by Opioid Antagonist in Experienced Meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162167/  ), May and colleagues recruited adult experienced meditators who were free of chronic pain and not taking opioid drugs. They were measured for pain responses to an electric shock delivered to the ring finger of the non-dominant hand. They rated the level of pain on a 10-point scale. The participants first rated pain under normal conditions and later while meditating. Those participants who demonstrated a 15% or more reduction in pain while meditating (meditation analgesia) participated in the second half of the experiment. Half the participants received a saline injection and half an injection of Naloxone (an opioid receptor blocker) and repeated the pain testing while meditating. In the next session the participants received either the saline or Naloxone injection that they did not receive in the first session. So, all participants received both saline and Naloxone injections and were tested for their pain sensitivity.

 

They found in the initial test that 85% of the participants demonstrated a 15% or more reduction in pain while meditating (meditation analgesia). This high rate suggests that meditation routinely produces a reduced experience of pain in experienced meditators. In the second phase they found that meditation analgesia was not only not reduced by Naloxone injection but actually significant increased, with larger reductions in both pain intensity and pain unpleasantness to the electric shock after Naloxone injection than after saline injections.

 

The opioid system of the brain is a well-established pain processing system. Its function is blocked by Naloxone. So, the reduction in pain produced by meditation was not affected by disrupting the opioid system. So, meditation analgesia must not be due to changes in this opioid system. It must be processed by a different system in the brain. The increase in meditation analgesia after Naloxone was a surprise, for which there is no viable explanation at this time. Hence, meditation reduces pain sensitivity and does so independent of the brain system that responds to opiates.

 

So, meditation reduces pain sensitivity independent of brain opioid systems.

 

Mindfulness meditation is believed to be a viable alternative to drugs when it comes to pain management. Although research is still in the beginning phases, pilot studies focusing on the benefits of mindfulness have shown promising outcomes for patients suffering from chronic ailments such as fibromyalgia, back pain, migraines, etc.” – Mindworks

 

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

 

May, L. M., Kosek, P., Zeidan, F., & Berkman, E. T. (2018). Enhancement of Meditation Analgesia by Opioid Antagonist in Experienced Meditators. Psychosomatic medicine, 80(9), 807-813.

 

ABSTRACT

Objective

Studies have consistently shown that long-term meditation practice is associated with reduced pain, but the neural mechanisms by which long-term meditation practice reduces pain remain unclear. This study tested endogenous opioid involvement in meditation analgesia associated with long-term meditation practice.

Methods

Electrical pain was induced with randomized, double-blind, cross-over administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone (0.15-mg/kg bolus dose, then 0.2-mg/kg per hour infusion dose) with 32 healthy, experienced meditation practitioners and a standardized open monitoring meditation.

Results

Under saline, pain ratings were significantly lower during meditation (pain intensity: 6.41 ± 1.32; pain unpleasantness: 3.98 ± 2.17) than at baseline (pain intensity: 6.86 ±1.04, t(31) = 2.476, p = .019, Cohen’s d= 0.46; pain unpleasantness: 4.96 ±1.75, t(31) = 3.746, p = .001, Cohen’s d = 0.68), confirming the presence of meditation analgesia. Comparing saline and naloxone revealed significantly lower pain intensity (t(31) = 3.12, p = .004, d = 0.56), and pain unpleasantness (t(31) = 3.47, p = .002, d = 0.62), during meditation under naloxone (pain intensity: 5.53 ± 1.54; pain unpleasantness: 2.95 ± 1.88) than under saline (pain intensity: 6.41 ± 1.32; pain unpleasantness: 3.98 ± 2.17). Naloxone not only failed to eliminate meditation analgesia but also made meditation analgesia stronger.

Conclusions

Long-term meditation practice does not rely on endogenous opioids to reduce pain. Naloxone’s blockade of opioid receptors enhanced meditation analgesia; pain ratings during meditation were significantly lower under naloxone than under saline. Possible biological mechanisms by which naloxone-induced opioid receptor blockade enhances meditation analgesia are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162167/

 

Breath Counting May Be an Objective Measure of Mindfulness

Breath Counting May Be an Objective Measure of Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

As its name implies, the ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’ uses the breath as an object of concentration. By focusing on the breath you become aware of the mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another. The simple discipline of concentration brings us back to the present moment and all the richness of experience that it contains. It is a way to develop mindfulness, the faculty of alert and sensitive awareness.” – The Buddhist Centre

 

Mindfulness 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, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding mindfulness effects is that there are, a wide variety of methods to measure mindfulness most of which involve subjective answers to questions from the practitioner. There is a need for more objective measures.

 

Focused attention meditation is a mindfulness training technique that involves paying attention to a single meditation object, frequently the breath, counting each in breath and each out breath. This breath following meditation practice is easy to observe and quantify with a breath counting test and may serve as an objective measure of the development of mindfulness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Towards an Objective Measure of Mindfulness: Replicating and Extending the Features of the Breath-Counting Task.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153891/  ), Wong and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete a 20-minute breath counting task, a 20-minute vigilance task, and mindfulness, cognitive failures, and mind wandering questionnaires. On a second occasion the participants completed a second 20-minute breath counting task. In the breath counting task the participants pushed a button after each breath while their actual breathing was measured.

 

They found that 72% of the breaths were accurately counted but participants were significantly poorer during the second 10 minutes of the task than the first 10 minutes. The results of the first breath counting task were highly correlated with the results of the second, suggesting high reliability of measurement with the task. They also found that the higher the breath counting accuracy, the higher was the accuracy and the fewer the errors in the vigilance (attentional) task and the fewer the cognitive failures reported in everyday life. Finally, there was a trend toward higher breath counting accuracy being associated with higher subjective mindfulness.

 

These results suggest that the breath counting task may be a useful objective measure of mindfulness that has high reliability. It correlates with sustained attentional ability (vigilance) and also with subjective mindfulness. Further research is needed to determine if this is a better measure of mindfulness for use in research and therapeutic interventions. One potential way to look at this is to see if breath counting accuracy increases after mindfulness training and better predicts other outcomes of mindfulness practice.

 

So, breath counting may be an objective measure of mindfulness.

 

“Breath-counting meditation builds on controlled breathing techniques and exercises and can alleviate stress. Breath-counting meditation is one of the most basic and commonly used forms of meditation.” – Alan Elkin

 

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

 

F Wong, K., A A Massar, S., Chee, M., & Lim, J. (2018). Towards an Objective Measure of Mindfulness: Replicating and Extending the Features of the Breath-Counting Task. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1402-1410.

 

Abstract

Despite calls for objective measures of mindfulness to be adopted in the field, such practices have not yet become established. Recently, a breath-counting task (BCT) was proposed as a reliable and valid candidate for such an instrument. In this study, we show that the psychometric properties of the BCT are reproducible in a sample of 127 Asian undergraduates. Specifically, accuracy on the BCT was associated with everyday lapses and sustained attention, and weakly associated with subjectively measured mindfulness. BCT metrics also showed good test-retest reliability. Extending the use of the paradigm, we further found that two different types of task errors—miscounts and resets—were correlated with different aspects of cognition. Miscounts, or errors made without awareness, were associated with attentional lapses, whereas resets, or self-caught errors, were associated with mind-wandering. The BCT may be a suitable candidate for the standardized measurement of mindfulness that could be used in addition to mindfulness questionnaires.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153891/