Less Complex Brain Activity Characterizes Meditation by Experienced Meditators.

Less Complex Brain Activity Characterizes Meditation by Experienced Meditators.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate. The overall difference is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would.” – Belle Beth Cooper

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that meditation 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, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

It is important to understand what are the exact changes in the brain that are produced by meditation. In today’s Research News article “Characterizing the Dynamical Complexity Underlying Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6637306/), Escrichs and colleagues recruited experienced adult meditators with at least 1000 hours of meditation experience and an ongoing practice and a matched group of non-meditators. They underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) at rest and again when performing breath focused meditation. The scans were then analyzed with Intrinsic Ignition Framework that measures the degree of elicited whole-brain integration of spontaneously occurring events across time, in other words the complexity of information processing going on in the nervous system.

 

They found that at rest, the meditators had higher Intrinsic-Driven Mean Integration (IDMI) than controls but during meditation they had significantly lower IDMI than the controls. The meditators also had significantly higher metastability during rest than controls but that metastability significantly declined during meditation. These results are complex but indicate that meditators have greater levels of information moving around the brain and greater complexity of information processing over time at rest but during meditation move to a state where there is less information moving around and less complexity of processing.

 

The results suggest that meditators have more complicated information processing going on in their nervous systems at rest but during meditation greatly simplify that activity. It would appear that this takes practice as the non-meditators did not have comparable activities during meditation. This suggests that meditation experience over time produces neuroplastic alterations of the brain that increase the ability of the brain to process information normally and to become quieter during meditation.

 

Nondirective meditation yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique.” – ScienceDaily

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Escrichs, A., Sanjuán, A., Atasoy, S., López-González, A., Garrido, C., Càmara, E., & Deco, G. (2019). Characterizing the Dynamical Complexity Underlying Meditation. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 13, 27. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2019.00027

 

Abstract

Over the past 2,500 years, contemplative traditions have explored the nature of the mind using meditation. More recently, neuroimaging research on meditation has revealed differences in brain function and structure in meditators. Nevertheless, the underlying neural mechanisms are still unclear. In order to understand how meditation shapes global activity through the brain, we investigated the spatiotemporal dynamics across the whole-brain functional network using the Intrinsic Ignition Framework. Recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that different states of consciousness differ in their underlying dynamical complexity, i.e., how the broadness of communication is elicited and distributed through the brain over time and space. In this work, controls and experienced meditators were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during resting-state and meditation (focused attention on breathing). Our results evidenced that the dynamical complexity underlying meditation shows less complexity than during resting-state in the meditator group but not in the control group. Furthermore, we report that during resting-state, the brain activity of experienced meditators showed higher metastability (i.e., a wider dynamical regime over time) than the one observed in the control group. Overall, these results indicate that the meditation state operates in a different dynamical regime compared to the resting-state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6637306/

 

Structural and Functional Changes in the Brain Produced by Meditation Training

Structural and Functional Changes in the Brain Produced by Meditation Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress start to appear in subjects who practice mindfulness meditation for only eight weeks.” – Deepak 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.

 

Although, these changes have been documented, there is scant evidence regarding the temporal course of the neural changes with increasing experience with meditation. In today’s Research News article “Alterations in Brain Structure and Amplitude of Low-frequency after 8 weeks of Mindfulness Meditation Training in Meditation-Naïve Subjects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6662752/), Yang and colleagues recruited meditation naïve college students and provided them with a 8 week meditation training program. They met for 1.5 hours once a week and were requested to meditate at home for 45 minutes daily. They were measured before and after the meditation program for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, and mood, including anger, fatigue, tension, depression, vigour and friendliness. In addition, their brains were measured with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) before and after training.

 

They found that after meditation training there were significant decreases in anxiety and depression and significant increases in the non-reactivity facet of mindfulness. Cortical thickness significantly increased over training in the precuneus and superior parietal lobule while local brain activity fluctuations decreased in the precuneus and inferior parietal lobule. The parietal cortex is associated with bodily sensation and self-referential thinking while the precuneus is associated with the default mode network involved in mind wandering and self-referential thought.

 

The study did not contain a control condition. So, conclusion must be reached carefully. But the results suggest that mindfulness meditation training decreases anxiety and depression, which has been previously well documented. The neural findings that meditation training resulted in decreased brain activity fluctuations in the precuneus and inferior parietal lobule suggests that the training reduces activity in brain regions associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, which have also been well documented previously. Focusing on the present moment as is trained in mindfulness meditation cannot coexist with mind wandering and self-referential thinking. So, it is not surprising that there’s reduced activity in the brain regions underlying these functions.

 

All of this suggests that mindfulness meditation training changes the brain in ways that reflect greater present moment awareness and less daydreaming and discursive thinking.

 

“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

 

Chuan-Chih Yang, Alfonso Barrós-Loscertales, Meng Li, Daniel Pinazo, Viola Borchardt, César Ávila, Martin Walter. Alterations in Brain Structure and Amplitude of Low-frequency after 8 weeks of Mindfulness Meditation Training in Meditation-Naïve Subjects. Sci Rep. 2019; 9: 10977. Published online 2019 Jul 29. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-47470-4

 

Abstract

Increasing neuroimaging evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation expertise is related to different functional and structural configurations of the default mode network (DMN), the salience network (SN) and the executive network at rest. However, longitudinal studies observing resting network plasticity effects in brains of novices who started to practice meditation are scarce and generally related to one dimension, such as structural or functional effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate structural and functional brain network changes (e.g. DMN) after 40 days of mindfulness meditation training in novices and set these in the context of potentially altered depression symptomatology and anxiety. We found overlapping structural and functional effects in precuneus, a posterior DMN region, where cortical thickness increased and low-frequency amplitudes (ALFF) decreased, while decreased ALFF in left precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex correlates with the reduction of (CES-D) depression scores. In conclusion, regional overlapping of structural and functional changes in precuneus may capture different components of the complex changes of mindfulness meditation training.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6662752/

 

Strengthen Character with Mindfulness

Strengthen Character with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness opens the door to who we are, and character strengths are what is behind that door.” – Ryan Niemiec

 

Personality characteristics are thought to be relatively permanent traits that form an individual’s distinctive character. Engaging in mindfulness training has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. It also appears to be associated with healthy personality characteristics. Character strengths are group of positive personality characteristics that are highly valued such as “creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, zest, love, social intelligence, forgiveness, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, and spirituality.” This suggests that mindfulness may be associated with and may improve these character strengths.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Mutual Support Model of Mindfulness and Character Strengths.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6647542/),  Pang and Ruch recruited participants online and had them complete an online questionnaire measuring mindfulness and 24 character strengths. They found that the higher the mindfulness scores the higher the character strengths. They then separated the participants in those who meditated and those who didn’t. They found that the meditators had significantly higher levels of mindfulness, and the character strengths of spirituality, gratitude, appreciation of beauty, curiosity, love of learning, curiosity, hope, bravery, leadership, zest, perspective, self-regulation, and humor.

 

In a second study they recruited adults and randomly assignee them to a wait-list control condition or to receive Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 2-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants are also encouraged to perform daily practice. They were measured before and after training and 1, 3, and 6 months later for mindfulness and the 24 character strengths. They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list controls, after training and the follow-up measures the participants who received MBSR training had significantly higher levels of mindfulness, love, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, spirituality, zest, and bravery.

 

The 2 studies suggest that mindfulness is associated with character strengths and increasing mindfulness with MBSR training produces enduring increases in the levels of these strengths. The character strengths that were most associated with mindfulness, hope, bravery, curiosity, social intelligence, zest, love, perspective, and gratitude, have been shown to be associated with greater life satisfaction. This underscores the contribution of mindfulness to psychological health and happiness.

 

So, strengthen character with mindfulness.

 

“The combination of practicing mindfulness with a focus on character strengths helps us to open the door to avenues to self growth. With improved awareness of our character strengths we can more easily overcome common obstacles that emerge when developing mindfulness and serve to “supercharge” both mindful living and formal mindfulness meditation.” – Susan Kuz

 

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

 

Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019). The Mutual Support Model of Mindfulness and Character Strengths. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1545–1559. doi:10.1007/s12671-019-01103-z

 

Abstract

Objectives

Numerous studies have confirmed robust relationships between general well-being and mindfulness or character strengths, respectively, but few have examined associations between mindfulness and character strengths. Two studies were carried out to explore these relationships comprehensively in the framework of the Values in Action (VIA) classification of character strengths.

Methods

In study 1, participants (N = 1335) completed validated assessments of mindfulness and character strengths, and the relationship between the two was investigated in a broad online sample. In study 2, the effect of a mindfulness training on specific character strengths was investigated using a randomized-control design (N = 42).

Results

The results of study 1 confirmed positive relationships between mindfulness and character strengths and further identified a list of character strengths that might overlap with mindfulness—i.e., creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, zest, love, social intelligence, forgiveness, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, and spirituality. The findings of study 2 provided further support for the hypothesis that mindfulness training could help cultivate certain character strengths. Compared with participants in the waitlist control condition, those who attended an 8-week mindfulness-based training program showed significant increases in the strengths of love, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, and spirituality, and a trend toward significant increases in the strengths of zest and bravery.

Conclusions

The results provide initial evidence for a mutual support model of mindfulness and character strengths.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6647542/

 

Meditation Alters the Brains of Patients with Residual Symptoms after Accidental Physical Injury

Meditation Alters the Brains of Patients with Residual Symptoms after Accidental Physical Injury

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness meditation can help you recover from injury by changing your perception of the circumstance/trauma/event. . . . You can come to know if pain is authentic or based on fear. You can take an honest look at how much you are building up the meaning of an injury and causing yourself more pain. You can direct your mind towards what is important, rather than being distracted by irrational worries and beliefs that are based in fiction or illusion.” – Jennifer Houghton

 

Accidental or unintentional injuries occur due to external forces. In the United States there are nearly 40 million visits to doctors’ offices and 30 million emergency room visits for accidental injuries. The most frequent causes are automobile accidents and falls. Often patients have physical and mental distress that continues even with medical treatment for a year or more. These are termed post-traumatic residual disabilities. They are obviously a major problem for the ability of the patients to conduct their lives.

 

Meditation training has been found to be an effective treatment for a myriad of physical and mental problems resulting from accident, disease, or post-traumatic stress. It has also been established that meditation practice alters brain structure and electrical activity. So, it would make sense to employ meditation training for patients with post-traumatic residual disabilities and examine brain activity after the training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Short-term meditation modulates EEG activity in subjects with post-traumatic residual disabilities.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6402287/), Hata and colleagues recruited adult patients with physical and mental distress that continued even with medical treatment for a year or more and a group of healthy normal control participants. The participants with post-traumatic residual disabilities were provided audio recording led meditation practice and asked to meditate for 24 minutes daily for 8 weeks. Before and after practice they were measured for distress from disability and mindfulness and were subjected to an Electroencephalographic (EEG) technique called Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (eLORETA) while at rest and while meditating. Recordings were only performed once for the normal control participants who did not meditate.

 

The meditation practice produced a significant increase in mindfulness in the patients. In comparison to the normal controls, meditation produced increased current densities in the inferior parietal module of the participants with post-traumatic residual disabilities. They also found that changes in the brain current densities in the precuneus were positively associated with work or daily difficulties resulting from the injury.

 

This study demonstrated that meditation practice produces changes in the electrical characteristic in the brains of patients with post-traumatic residual disabilities. Importantly, the greater the increase in precuneus current density the greater the improvement in daily physical difficulties resulting from the injuries. So, meditation practice may be useful for the relief of these difficulties. But the effects were not large and there wasn’t a comparable control condition. So, these results must be seen as tentative until a larger randomized controlled trial can be implemented.

 

So, meditation alters the brains of patients with residual symptoms after accidental physical injury.

 

“meditation is about establishing a different relationship with your thoughts and affirming your body’s ability to heal itself. You’re training yourself to place your attention where and when you want. This is very powerful. It gives you the ability to direct your thoughts (and mood) in more productive and peaceful directions. This ability has profound self-healing implications for physical and mental health.” – Caroline Jordan

 

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

 

Hata, M., Hayashi, N., Ishii, R., Canuet, L., Pascual-Marqui, R. D., Aoki, Y., … Ito, T. (2019). Short-term meditation modulates EEG activity in subjects with post-traumatic residual disabilities. Clinical neurophysiology practice, 4, 30–36. doi:10.1016/j.cnp.2019.01.003

 

Abstract

Objective

Neurophysiological changes related to meditation have recently attracted scientific attention. We aimed to detect changes in electroencephalography (EEG) parameters induced by a meditative intervention in subjects with post-traumatic residual disability (PTRD), which has been confirmed for effectiveness and safety in a previous study. This will allow us to estimate the objective effect of this intervention at the neurophysiological level.

Methods

Ten subjects with PTRD were recruited and underwent psychological assessment and EEG recordings before and after the meditative intervention. Furthermore, 10 additional subjects were recruited as normal controls. Source current density as an EEG parameter was estimated by exact Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (eLORETA). Comparisons of source current density in PTRD subjects after the meditative intervention with normal controls were investigated. Additionally, we compared source current density in PTRD subjects between before and after meditative intervention. Correlations between psychological assessments and source current density were also explored.

Results

After meditative intervention, PTRD subjects exhibited increased gamma activity in the left inferior parietal lobule relative to normal controls. In addition, changes of delta activity in the right precuneus correlated with changes in the psychological score on role physical item, one of the quality of life scales reflecting the work or daily difficulty due to physical problems.

Conclusions

These results show that the meditative intervention used in this study produces neurophysiological changes, in particular the modulation of oscillatory activity of the brain.

Significance

Our meditative interventions might induce the neurophysiological changes associated with the improvement of psychological symptoms in the PTRD subjects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6402287/

 

Improve Well-Being, Attention, and Emotions with Meditation

Improve Well-Being, Attention, and Emotions with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

How are you feeling? Meditation gives us a chance to entertain that question at a deeper level. It can give us the room to fully experience an emotion for what it is.” – Mindful

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

There are, however, a number of different meditation techniques. Two common forms are focused and open monitoring meditation practices. 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.

 

What forms of meditation work best to improve emotions and over what period of time is necessary for practice to produce benefits have not been well studied. In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Different Stages of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Emotion Regulation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6610260/), Zhang and colleagues recruited young adults (aged 19-32) who had not engaged in meditation practice previously and randomly assigned them to either a wait list control condition or an 8-week mindfulness training program. The mindfulness training consisted of 4 weeks of focused meditation followed by 4 weeks of open monitoring meditation. They met for 2 hours once a week and were requested to practice at home daily for 20-30 minutes. They were measured before training, at the 4-week point of training and after training for mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, anxiety, depression, rumination, and a cognitive attention task (Stroop task).

 

They found that the meditation group significantly increased in mindfulness from baseline to the 4-week point with further increases observed at 8 weeks, while the control group did not increase. For the meditation group positive emotions were significant higher at both 4 and 8 weeks while rumination, negative emotions, anxiety, and depression were significant lower. The meditation group also had significantly improved ability to attend to stimuli amid interference at 4- and 8-weeks post-training while the control group did not.

 

The results are interesting and suggest that 4 weeks of focused meditation practice improves the psychological well-being of young adults while an additional 4 weeks of open monitoring meditation practice either maintains or further increases the benefits. These results replicate many previous findings that mindfulness training significantly improves mindfulness, attention, and emotions, and significantly reduces rumination, anxiety, and depression. This strongly supports providing meditation training for young adults to improve their psychological health and well-being.

 

So, improve well-being, attention, and emotions with meditation.

 

“in order to successfully navigate life, you need to be able to both name the emotion you’re experiencing and describe the feelings that make up your experience. This is where meditation can help, by teaching us to observe, identify, and respond instead of just react.” – Richard Miller

 

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

 

Zhang, Q., Wang, Z., Wang, X., Liu, L., Zhang, J., & Zhou, R. (2019). The Effects of Different Stages of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Emotion Regulation. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 208. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00208

 

Abstract

This study examined mood enhancement effects from 4-week focusing attention (FA) meditation and 4-week open monitoring (OM) meditation in an 8-week mindfulness training program designed for ordinary individuals. Forty participants were randomly assigned to a training group or a control group. All participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks and subjective scale tests at three time points (pre-, mid-, and post-tests). Compared with the participants in the control group, the participants in the meditation training group showed significantly decreased anxiety, depression, and rumination scores; significantly increased mindfulness scores; and significantly reduced reaction times (RTs) in the incongruent condition for the Stroop task. The present study demonstrated that 8-week mindfulness meditation training could effectively enhance the level of mindfulness and improve emotional states. Moreover, FA meditation could partially improve individual levels of mindfulness and effectively improve mood, while OM meditation could further improve individual levels of mindfulness and maintain a positive mood.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6610260/

 

Improve Workplace Wellness with Mindful Meditation

Improve Workplace Wellness with Mindful Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

If your workforce deals with stress, emotional health issues, or low morale, you’ll likely benefit from implementing a meditation program. Meditation programs have a lot of amazing health and wellness benefits that will have a positive impact on your employees.” – Robyn Whalen

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. These programs attempt to increase the employees’ mindfulness at work and thereby reduce stress and burnout. The research has been accumulating. So, it is important to step back and summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation for workplace wellness: An evidence map.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6598008/), Hilton and colleagues reviewed and summarized published systematic reviews of the research on mindfulness training in the workplace and its effects on employee health and well-being. They identified 175 reviews that focused on health care workers, caregivers, educators, and general workplace workers.

 

They report that the reviews demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in treating chronic conditions producing relief of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Mindfulness was found to produce small decreases in chronic pain but significant improvements in pain-related quality of life. Mindfulness training was found to reduce substance abuse and help prevent relapse, reduce negative emotions, anxiety, depression, somatization, irritable bowel syndrome, and stress effects. Mindfulness training also was effective in cancer care, including reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and improving sleep and quality of life. for support of caregivers.

 

These findings are remarkable. The wide range of positive benefits on physical and mental health are breathtaking. To this authors knowledge there is no other treatment that has such broad application and effectiveness. This suggests that workplace mindfulness training is safe and highly effective and should be implemented throughout the workplace.

 

So, improve workplace wellness with mindful meditation.

 

The ancient art of meditation has many benefits, especially in the workplace. Studies have shown that meditation practiced in the workplace has a direct impact on increased productivity, creativity, focus, and the overall happiness of employees.” – The Lotus

 

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

 

Hilton, L. G., Marshall, N. J., Motala, A., Taylor, S. L., Miake-Lye, I. M., Baxi, S., … Hempel, S. (2019). Mindfulness meditation for workplace wellness: An evidence map. Work (Reading, Mass.), 63(2), 205–218. doi:10.3233/WOR-192922

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Mindfulness interventions aim to foster greater attention and awareness of present moment experiences. Uptake of mindfulness programs in the workplace has grown as organizations look to support employee health, wellbeing, and performance.

OBJECTIVE:

In support of evidence-based decision making in workplace contexts, we created an evidence map summarizing physical and mental health, cognitive, affective, and interpersonal outcomes from systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of mindfulness interventions.

METHODS:

We searched nine electronic databases to July 2017, dually-screened all reviews, and consulted topic experts to identify systematic reviews on mindfulness interventions. The distribution of evidence is presented as an evidence map in a bubble plot.

RESULTS:

In total, 175 systematic reviews met inclusion criteria. Reviews included a variety of mindfulness-based interventions. The largest review included 109 randomized controlled trials. The majority of these addressed general health, psychological conditions, chronic illness, pain, and substance use. Twenty-six systematic reviews assessed studies conducted in workplace settings and with healthcare professionals, educators, and caregivers. The evidence map shows the prevalence of research by the primary area of focus. An outline of promising applications of mindfulness interventions is included.

CONCLUSIONS:

The evidence map provides an overview of existing mindfulness research. It shows the body of available evidence to inform policy and organizational decision-making supporting employee wellbeing in work contexts.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6598008/

 

Mindfulness Therapies May Be Cost-Effective for the Treatment of Mental Illness

Mindfulness Therapies May Be Cost-Effective for the Treatment of Mental Illness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“[Mindfulness] is a cost-saving alternative to treatment as usual over the trial duration from both a healthcare and a societal perspective for patients with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety or stress and adjustment disorders.” – Sanjib Saha

 

There has developed a large volume of research findings supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness training for the treatment of mental illnesses. Effectiveness has been documented for a wide variety of psychological disorders including anxiety, depression, stress responses, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, addictions, and major mental illnesses. But there is little understanding of the cost-effectiveness of these mindfulness trainings. So, it is important take a serious look at the costs of implementing these therapies in comparison to the healthcare savings produced and/or the costs of other treatments of similar effectiveness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Are acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions ‘value for money’? Evidence from a systematic literature review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6588093/), Duarte and colleagues review and summarize the published studies of the cost-effectiveness of acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions. The following acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions were identified:  Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) , Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT),  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), mindfulness‐based relapse prevention (MBRP), and other mindfulness meditation and mindfulness training. They identified 10 published studies.

 

They reported that the published studies found mixed results depending on the type of economic analysis and the comparator condition. In general, they report that acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions are mildly cost-effective for the treatment of depression, emotional unstable personality disorder, and general mental health conditions. It is clear, however, that this issue needs to be further studied.

 

In an age of high healthcare costs, it is important to perform economic analyses of treatments. Before widespread implementation of a treatment it is important to know that the costs of implementing the treatments are less than the healthcare savings produced. Various acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions can be expensive to implement and the savings produced hard to evaluate. So, the analysis has produced ambiguous results. One way to improve the cost-effectiveness of acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions is to implement the therapies online or with smartphone technologies. This markedly reduces the costs while maintaining effectiveness.

 

So, mindfulness therapies may be cost-effective for the treatment of mental illness.

 

“MBSR reduced costs to society by $724 per year in comparison to usual care, and reduced healthcare costs to payers by $982; it also increased participants’ quality-adjusted life years.” – Patricia Herman

 

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

 

Duarte, R., Lloyd, A., Kotas, E., Andronis, L., & White, R. (2019). Are acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions ‘value for money’? Evidence from a systematic literature review. The British journal of clinical psychology, 58(2), 187–210. doi:10.1111/bjc.12208

 

Abstract

Objectives

Acceptance and mindfulness‐based interventions (A/MBIs) are recommended for people with mental health conditions. Although there is a growing evidence base supporting the effectiveness of different A/MBIs for mental health conditions, the economic case for these interventions has not been fully explored. The aim of this systematic review was to identify and appraise all available economic evidence of A/MBIs for the management of mental health conditions.

Methods

Eight electronic bibliographic databases (MEDLINE, MEDLINE In‐Process & Other Non‐Indexed Citations, EMBASE, Web of Science, NHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), Health Technology Assessment (HTA) database, and EconLit) were searched for relevant economic evaluations published from each database’s inception date until November 2017. Study selection, quality assessment, and data extraction were carried out according to published guidelines.

Results

Ten relevant economic evaluations presented in 11 papers were identified. Seven of the included studies were full economic evaluations (i.e., costs and effects assessed), and three studies were partial economic evaluations (i.e., only costs were considered in the analysis). The A/MBIs that had been subjected to economic evaluation were acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness‐based stress reduction (MBSR). In terms of clinical presentations, the evaluation of cost‐effectiveness of A/MBIs has been more focused on depression and emotional unstable personality disorder with three and four economic evaluations, respectively. Three out of seven full economic evaluations observed that A/MBIs were cost‐effective for the management of mental health conditions. Nevertheless, the heterogeneity of included populations, interventions, and economic evaluation study types limits the extent to which firm conclusions can currently be made.

Conclusion

This first substantive review of economic evaluations of A/MBIs indicates that more research is needed before firm conclusions can be reached on the cost‐effectiveness of A/MBIs for mental health conditions.

Practitioner points

The findings of the review provide information that may be relevant to mental health service commissioners and decision‐makers as all economic evidence available on acceptance and mindfulness‐based interventions for mental health conditions is summarized.

Evidence relating to the cost‐effectiveness and cost‐saving potential of acceptance and mindfulness‐based interventions is focused mainly on depression and emotional unstable personality disorder to date.

Heterogeneity in the specific forms of acceptance and mindfulness‐based interventions may limit generalizability of the findings.

The number of health economic evaluations relating to acceptance and mindfulness‐based interventions remains relatively small. Further research in this area is required.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6588093/

 

Improve Psychopathology with Meditation

Improve Psychopathology with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The research is strong for mindfulness’ positive impact in certain areas of mental health, including stress reduction, emotion and attention regulation, reduced rumination, for reducing mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and preventing depressive relapse.” – Kelle Walsh

 

There are vast numbers of people who suffer with mental illnesses; psychopathology. In the United states it has been estimated that in any given year 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness. Many are treated with drugs. But drug treatment can produce unwanted side effects, don’t work for many patients, and often can lose effectiveness over time. Mindfulness practices provide a safe alternative treatment. They have been found to be helpful with coping with these illnesses and in many cases reducing the symptoms of the diseases. Hence, it appears that mindfulness practices are safe and effective treatments for a variety of psychiatric conditions including anxietydepressionpsychosesaddictions, etc.. Since there has accumulated a large amount of research, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been discovered.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597263/), Wielgosz and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies investigating the efficacy of mindfulness meditation practices for the treatment of a variety of psychopathologies.

 

They report that mindfulness meditation produces significant improvements in depression and in anxiety disorders in comparison to inactive and active control conditions. Efficacy is equivalent to that of other evidence-based treatments. The research suggests that meditation reduces depression by decreasing rumination and anxiety by reducing repetitive negative thinking. Hence, meditation training is an excellent safe and effective treatment for these prevalent mental illnesses.

 

They also report that mindfulness meditation produces significant improvements in chronic pain intensity and unpleasantness in comparison to inactive but not active control conditions. Efficacy is equivalent to that of other evidence-based treatments. This is true for chronic low back pain fibromyalgia, migraine, and chronic pelvic pain. Meditation also appears to improve the quality of life of chronic pain patients. The research suggests that meditation reduces chronic pain by decreasing negative emotional reactivity. Such reactivity appears to intensify pain and meditation reduces this reactivity and thereby reduces pain.

 

They report that mindfulness meditation produces significant improvements in substance abuse disorders in comparison to inactive and active control conditions and even in comparison to other evidence-based treatments. It appears to reduce substance use frequency, use-related problems, and craving. This is important as addictions are very difficult to treat and frequently relapse.

 

There is evidence that mindfulness meditation is effective in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) both in children and adults and also post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But there are currently no comparisons to the effects of other active or evidence-based treatments. It will be important to have randomized controlled trials with active controls to better assess the efficacy of meditation for the treatment of ADHD and PTSD.

 

There is emerging evidence that mindfulness meditation may be effective for eating disorders, and major mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depression, and psychosis. But there is a need for more, better controlled research.

 

Hence, this comprehensive review suggests that mindfulness meditation is a useful treatment for a variety of types of psychopathology. It is amazing that such a simple practice as meditation can have such wide-ranging benefits for such diverse mental illnesses. Meditation appears to act indirectly by strengthening cognitive, emotional, and stress related process that in turn have beneficial effects on the psychopathologies. Hence, it is clear that mindfulness meditation is a safe and effective treatment for psychopathologies that can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

 

So, improve psychopathology with meditation.

 

“When they’re depressed, people are locked in the past. They’re ruminating about something that happened that they can’t let go of. When they’re anxious, they’re ruminating about the future — it’s that anticipation of what they can’t control. In contrast, when we are mindful, we are focused on the here and now. Mindfulness trains individuals to turn their attention to what is happening in the present moment.” – Carolyn Gregoire

 

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

 

Wielgosz, J., Goldberg, S. B., Kral, T., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2019). Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology. Annual review of clinical psychology, 15, 285–316. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation is increasingly incorporated into mental health interventions, and theoretical concepts associated with it have influenced basic research on psychopathology. Here, we review the current understanding of mindfulness meditation through the lens of clinical neuroscience, outlining the core capacities targeted by mindfulness meditation and mapping them onto cognitive and affective constructs of the Research Domain Criteria matrix proposed by the National Institute of Mental Health. We review efficacious applications of mindfulness meditation to specific domains of psychopathology including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse, as well as emerging efforts related to attention disorders, traumatic stress, dysregulated eating, and serious mental illness. Priorities for future research include pinpointing mechanisms, refining methodology, and improving implementation. Mindfulness meditation is a promising basis for interventions, with particular potential relevance to psychiatric comorbidity. The successes and challenges of mindfulness meditation research are instructive for broader interactions between contemplative traditions and clinical psychological science.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597263/

Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Older Patients with Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes with Meditation

Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Older Patients with Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Though diabetes is a heterogenous disorder, with multiple clinical manifestations, its chronic complications occur due to vascular (endothelial) dysfunction. Mindfulness Meditation helps by improving the autonomic and endocrine regulation of vascular tone, thus leading to better cardiovascular health.” – Sanjay Kalra

 

Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States and nearly 600 million people worldwide have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type II Diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. It is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths per year have high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.

 

Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are common and increasingly prevalent illnesses, especially in older individual. But they are treatable with medications and largely preventable with lifestyle changes. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to be helpful in managing diabetes and also in reducing hypertension. This suggests that there is a need for further research on the effects of meditation training for the treatment of hypertension and Type II diabetes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Brain education-based meditation for patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes: A pilot randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6531095/), Lee and colleagues recruited older participants (57-87 years of age) with hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes and were under medication. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either health education or meditation training twice a week for 8 weeks. Before and after training blood was drawn for biochemical, RNA, and c-DNA analysis and completed questionnaires on their mental and physical health.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and health education control group, after meditation training there were significant reductions in blood low-density lipoprotein (LDL), inflammatory gene expression, and levels of fatigue, and significant increases in mental health, including significant increases in relaxation, focus, happiness, and confidence, and significant decreases in anger and loneliness. These results suggest that meditation training is effective in treating older patients with hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes who are already being treated with medication. Hence meditation practice supplements the benefits of medications.

 

The reductions in LDL cholesterol have been previously reported with mindfulness training and are very important as LDL cholesterol is a significant marker for cardiovascular disease. The reduction in inflammatory gene expression has also been previously reported and is very important as inflammation is a marker for a variety of disease conditions. In addition, the improvements in mental health have been previously reported and are significant as the elderly have higher levels of mental health difficulties than younger people.

 

It appears from these results that meditation training as a supplement to medication can be very beneficial for the mental and physical health of older patients suffering from hypertension and/or Type 2 diabetes. It would appear reasonable to recommend meditation training for these patients in addition to their medications.

 

So, improve the physical and mental health of older patients with hypertension and type 2 diabetes with meditation.

 

“Recent research showed meditation can also help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.” – Roberta Kleinman

 

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

 

Lee, S. H., Hwang, S. M., Kang, D. H., & Yang, H. J. (). Brain education-based meditation for patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Medicine, 98(19), e15574. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015574

 

Abstract

Background:

Hypertension and type 2 diabetes are chronic diseases, which generally require lifetime care. Meditation and yoga can be complementary to pharmacological therapies according to the scientific evidences so far. Brain education-based meditation (BEM) is a technique, which has been known to change brain structure, psychology, and physiology of healthy adult participants. This randomized, nonblinded pilot trial aimed to examine whether BEM affects the conditions of patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes compared with health education classes.

Methods:

We randomly allocated 48 patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes to BEM (n = 24) or health education (n = 24) classes in the Ulsan Junggu Public Health Center in Korea, where the classes were run during the same period and explored the impact of 8-week practice on the serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase, gamma glutamyl transpeptidase, creatinine, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Total RNA was extracted to examine inflammatory gene expressions from the whole blood using PAXgene blood RNA System. In addition, self-reports on mental/physical health were evaluated. The Student’s t test, chi-squared test, and analysis of covariance were used for statistical analysis.

Results:

The number of people who participated until the completion of the study was 14 in the control and 21 in the BEM group. After 8 weeks, LDL cholesterol level was significantly decreased in the BEM group after the intervention (13.82 mg/dL reduction, P < .05), while it was not significantly altered in the control group. The expression of inflammatory genes was significantly reduced after 8 weeks of the BEM training (0.3-, 0.5-, and 0.2-fold change for NFKB2, RELA, and IL1B, respectively, all P < .05). In the item analysis of mental/physical health self-reports, a significant improvement was confirmed as follows: increases in focus, confidence, relaxation, and happiness; decreases in fatigue, anger, and loneliness (all P < .05). There were no important adverse events or side-effects by BEM intervention.

Conclusion:

Compared to health education, BEM helps lower LDL cholesterol level and the inflammatory gene expression in the patients with hypertension and/or type 2 diabetes. Moreover, BEM induces positive effects on the self-reported mental/physical states, warranting further study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6531095/

 

 

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

Improve Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“From the philosophical and religious traditions from which mindfulness comes, it’s been long understood that practicing meditation, and cultivating mindfulness, in particular, can conduce to virtuous action.” – Daniel Berry

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial emotions such as compassion, and empathy and prosocial behaviors such as altruism. These changes in turn reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. The research findings on the effectiveness of meditation practice in developing prosocial attitudes and behaviors is accumulating. So, it makes sense to take a step back and summarize what’s been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/), Luberto and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the effects of meditation practice on procociality; “empathy, compassion, sympathy, love, altruism, and kindness.” They discovered 26 studies, 22 examined adults while 4 examined children.

 

They report that the published studies found that meditation practices produced significant increases in empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors. Mediation analyses suggest that meditation practice improves social-emotional functioning that in turn improves prosocial behaviors. It also suggests that this is in part due to meditation practice producing a physical and psychological relaxation response that counters stress effects. Regardless the published research literature makes it clear that meditation practice improves social emotions and behaviors. This may lead to a smoother and more effectively functioning society and to greater social cohesion and happiness.

 

So, improve empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors with meditation.

 

“the research shows that mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for oneself, and that such attitudes are good for you.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

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

 

Luberto, C. M., Shinday, N., Song, R., Philpotts, L. L., Park, E. R., Fricchione, G. L., & Yeh, G. Y. (2018). A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors. Mindfulness, 9(3), 708–724. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0841-8

 

Abstract

Increased attention has focused on methods to increase empathy, compassion, and pro-social behavior. Meditation practices have traditionally been used to cultivate pro-social outcomes, and recently investigations have sought to evaluate their efficacy for these outcomes. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of meditation for pro-social emotions and behavior. A literature search was conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, and Cochrane databases (inception-April 2016) using the search terms: mindfulness, meditation, mind-body therapies, tai chi, yoga, MBSR, MBCT, empathy, compassion, love, altruism, sympathy, or kindness. Randomized controlled trials in any population were included (26 studies with 1,714 subjects). Most were conducted among healthy adults (n=11) using compassion or loving kindness meditation (n=18) over 8–12weeks (n=12) in a group format (n=17). Most control groups were wait-list or no-treatment (n=15). Outcome measures included self-reported emotions (e.g., composite scores, validated measures) and observed behavioral outcomes (e.g., helping behavior in real-world and simulated settings). Many studies showed a low risk of bias. Results demonstrated small to medium effects of meditation on self-reported (SMD = .40, p < .001) and observable outcomes (SMD = .45, p < .001) and suggest psychosocial and neurophysiological mechanisms of action. Subgroup analyses also supported small to medium effects of meditation even when compared to active control groups. Clinicians and meditation teachers should be aware that meditation can improve positive pro-social emotions and behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081743/