Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

Improve a Biological Marker of Aging, Telomeres, with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While we might expect our bodies and brains to follow a shared trajectory of development and degeneration over time, by actively practicing strategies such as meditation, we might actually preserve and protect our physical body and brain structure to extend our golden years and shine even more brightly in old age.” – Sonima Wellness

 

One of the most exciting findings in molecular biology in recent years was the discovery of the telomere. This is a component of the DNA molecule that is attached to the ends of the strands. Recent genetic research has suggested that the telomere and its regulation is the biological mechanism that produces aging. As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis, this is what produces aging. As we get older the new cells produced are more and more likely to be defective. The shortening of the telomere occurs each time the cell is replaced. So, slowly as we age it gets shorter and shorter.

 

Fortunately, there is a mechanism to protect the telomere. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. It also promotes cell survival and enhances stress-resistance.  Research suggests that processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process by protecting the telomere.  One activity that seems to increase telomerase activity and protect telomere length is mindfulness practice. Hence, engaging in mindfulness practices may protect the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.

 

In today’s Research News article “Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/), and Mendioroz colleagues recruited long-term meditators (greater than 10 years of experience) and non-meditators matched for gender, ethnic group, and age. They were measured for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, experiential avoidance, and quality of life. They also provided blood samples that were assayed for telomere length and DNA methylation.

 

They found that the long-term meditators were significantly higher in for mindfulness, resilience, happiness, self-compassion, and quality of life and significantly lower in for anxiety, depression, and experiential avoidance.

 

They also found that the meditators had significantly longer telomeres than the matched controls. Interestingly, while in the controls the greater the age of the participant the shorter the telomeres, in the long-term meditators, telomere length was the same regardless of age. In addition, they found that in the long-term meditators, telomere length was significantly associated with DNA methylation at specific regions but not for the matched controls.

 

This study found, as have others, that long-term meditation practice is associated with longer telomeres. The fact, that the telomere length was not associated with age in the meditators suggests that meditation practice may protect the individual from age-related erosion of telomeres. The results further suggest that meditation may do so through specific methylation of DNA. Stress has been shown to results in shortening the telomeres. Hence, a potential mechanism whereby meditation may protect telomeres may be by reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress.

 

It is suspected, but not proven, that telomere length is related to health and well-being. The findings that the long-term meditators had significantly better mental health tends to support this notion. There is evidence that meditation practice increases longevity. It can be speculated that meditation practice may do so by affecting molecular genetic mechanisms that prevent the degradation of the telomeres with age.

 

So, improve a biological marker of aging, telomeres, with meditation.

 

Meditation also helps to protect our telomeres, the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres are longest when we’re young and naturally shorten as we age. Shorter telomeres are associated with stress and higher risk for many diseases including cancer, and depend on the telomerase enzyme to enable them to rebuild and repair.”- Paula Watkins

 

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

 

Mendioroz, M., Puebla-Guedea, M., Montero-Marín, J., Urdánoz-Casado, A., Blanco-Luquin, I., Roldán, M., Labarga, A., & García-Campayo, J. (2020). Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners. Scientific reports, 10(1), 4564. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61241-6

 

Abstract

Mindfulness and meditation techniques have proven successful for the reduction of stress and improvement in general health. In addition, meditation is linked to longevity and longer telomere length, a proposed biomarker of human aging. Interestingly, DNA methylation changes have been described at specific subtelomeric regions in long-term meditators compared to controls. However, the molecular basis underlying these beneficial effects of meditation on human health still remains unclear. Here we show that DNA methylation levels, measured by the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip (Illumina) array, at specific subtelomeric regions containing GPR31 and SERPINB9 genes were associated with telomere length in long-term meditators with a strong statistical trend when correcting for multiple testing. Notably, age showed no association with telomere length in the group of long-term meditators. These results may suggest that long-term meditation could be related to epigenetic mechanisms, in particular gene-specific DNA methylation changes at distinct subtelomeric regions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7067861/

 

Improve Emotion Processing by the Brain with Meditation

Improve Emotion Processing by the Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Alterations in key brain circuits associated with emotion regulation can be produced by mindfulness meditation.” – Richard Davidson

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that meditation practice has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It 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.

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation-induced neuroplastic changes of the prefrontal network are associated with reduced valence perception in older people.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058252/), Chau and colleagues recruited adults 60 years of age or greater who had no meditation or relaxation training. They were randomly assigned to receive an 8-week program of 22 sessions of 1.5 hours each of either attention-based compassion meditation training or relaxation training. The participants were instructed to also practice at home daily. Before and after training they were measured for emotional valence (the difference between the magnitudes of positive and negative emotions) and arousal (overall magnitude of emotional responses relative to neutral) with an Emotional Processing task involving emotional ratings of positive neutral and negative pictures. They were also measured for attention with a Stroop task. In addition, they received a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scan.

 

They found that emotional valence and arousal significantly decreased after training for the meditation but not the relaxation group. This suggests that emotions were less extreme after meditation training. There were no significant differences with attention. The brain scans revealed that the meditation group had significant enlargements of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the inferior frontal sulcus, and the inferior frontal junction. Path analysis revealed the changes in the inferior frontal junction drove the changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the inferior frontal sulcus.

 

These results are interesting and demonstrate neuroplastic changes in the brains of the elderly produced by attention-based compassion meditation training but not relaxation training. These changes in the brains of the elderly are associated with decrease emotional reactivity. Indeed, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been shown to be involved in the inhibition of emotions. This suggests that the meditation training produced improved brain processing for the regulation of emotions in the elderly. Since the elderly often suffer from extremes of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, these meditation induced changes may improve the psychological health of the elderly.

 

So, improve emotion processing by the brain with meditation.

 

Meditation can help tame your emotions even if you’re not a mindful person.” – ScienceDaily

 

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

 

Chau, B., Keuper, K., Lo, M., So, K. F., Chan, C., & Lee, T. (2018). Meditation-induced neuroplastic changes of the prefrontal network are associated with reduced valence perception in older people. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2, 2398212818771822. https://doi.org/10.1177/2398212818771822

 

Abstract

Background:

Neuroplastic underpinnings of meditation-induced changes in affective processing are largely unclear.

Methods:

We included healthy older participants in an active-controlled experiment. They were involved a meditation training or a control relaxation training of eight weeks. Associations between behavioral and neural morphometric changes induced by the training were examined.

Results:

The meditation group demonstrated a change in valence perception indexed by more neutral valence ratings of positive and negative affective images. These behavioral changes were associated with synchronous structural enlargements in a prefrontal network involving the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the inferior frontal sulcus. In addition, these neuroplastic effects were modulated by the enlargement in the inferior frontal junction. In contrast, these prefrontal enlargements were absent in the active control group, which completed a relaxation training. Supported by a path analysis, we propose a model that describes how meditation may induce a series of prefrontal neuroplastic changes related to valence perception. These brain areas showing meditation-induced structural enlargements are reduced in older people with affective dysregulations.

Conclusion:

We demonstrated that a prefrontal network was enlarged after eight weeks of meditation training. Our findings yield translational insights in the endeavor to promote healthy aging by means of meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058252/

 

Improve Sleep in Insomniacs with Meditation

Improve Sleep in Insomniacs with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Given the absence of side effects and the positive potential benefits of mindfulness that extend beyond sleep, we encourage people with chronic insomnia, particularly those unable or unwilling to use sleep medications, to consider mindfulness training.” – Cynthia Gross

 

Modern society has become more around-the-clock and more complex producing considerable pressure and stress on the individual. The advent of the internet and smart phones has exacerbated the problem. The resultant stress can impair sleep. Indeed, it is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. It has been estimated that 30 to 35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia, 15 to 20% have a short-term insomnia disorder, and 10% have chronic insomnia

 

Insomnia is more than just an irritant. Sleep deprivation is associated with decreased alertness and a consequent reduction in performance of even simple tasks, decreased quality of life, increased difficulties with memory and problem solving, increased likelihood of accidental injury including automobile accidents, and increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also can lead to anxiety about sleep itself. This is stressful and can produce even more anxiety about being able to sleep. About 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. So, there is a need to find better methods to treat insomnia. Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality and help with insomnia. It makes sense to explore the effectiveness of different meditation techniques for insomnia.

 

In today’s Research News article “Heartfulness meditation improves sleep in chronic insomnia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7034439/), Thimmapuram and colleagues recruited adults who were diagnosed with chronic insomnia. They were instructed on sleep hygiene and received instruction in heartfulness meditation once per week for 8 weeks. Heartfulness meditation included relaxation and directing attention to the light in the heart and be open to any experience. They were instructed to practice the meditation in the morning for 20 minutes and in the evening for 5 minutes. They were measured before and after training for insomnia severity.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline after heartfulness meditation there was a large significant decrease in insomnia severity. Whereas all participants were taking some form of medication for insomnia before the training, afterwards 75% of the patients had ceased taking the drugs while a further 12.5% reduced dosage.

 

The study did not contain a control group and as such the results must be interpreted with caution. However, prior well-controlled studies have demonstrated that mindfulness training improves sleep and reduces insomnia. So, it is likely that the heartfulness meditation practice was responsible for the improvements in the present study. This study extends the types of mindfulness practices that are effective for insomnia with heartfulness meditation.

 

So, improve sleep in insomniacs with meditation.

 

If insomnia is at the root of your sleepless nights, it may be worth trying meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.” – SleepFoundation

 

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

 

Thimmapuram, J., Yommer, D., Tudor, L., Bell, T., Dumitrescu, C., & Davis, R. (2020). Heartfulness meditation improves sleep in chronic insomnia. Journal of community hospital internal medicine perspectives, 10(1), 10–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/20009666.2019.1710948

 

ABSTRACT

Background: Chronic insomnia is characterized by disturbed sleep that occurs despite adequate opportunity and circumstances to sleep. Many patients with chronic insomnia have comorbid mental illnesses or medical illnesses that contribute and precipitate insomnia. Hallmark of chronic insomnia treatment includes non-pharmacological measures such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Pharmacologic treatment (sedative or hypnotic agents) has been disappointing because of poor efficacy and numerous undesirable side effects. Other new therapies including meditation have been proven to be effective.

Objective: This study investigates the effectiveness of Heartfulness meditation coupled with sleep hygiene to treat chronic insomnia. Methods: In this prospective pre-post design cohort study, 32 adult patients with chronic primary insomnia engaged in Heartfulness meditation along with appropriate sleep hygiene for eight weeks. Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores, usage of sedative or hypnotic agents were measured at baseline and at the end of the eight-week period.

Results: There was a significant decrease in the mean ISI scores from 20.9 to 10.4 (p < 0.001) after eight weeks of Heartfulness meditation. Twenty four of 32 patients were initially on sedative or hypnotic medications. At week eight, 21 of 24 patients (87.5%) were off these medications or the dosage was reduced (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: This study demonstrated statistical improvements in the measures of ISI in patients undergoing a Heartfulness meditation program. Heartfulness meditation may facilitate the taper and eventual cessation of sedative hypnotics in patients suffering from chronic insomnia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7034439/

 

Reduce Alcohol-Related Choices to Alleviate Stress with Brief Meditation

Reduce Alcohol-Related Choices to Alleviate Stress with Brief Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation has a pretty long list of reputed benefits, including everything from lowered stress levels to more effective (and mood-boosting) runs. It can help curb your craving for cocktails.” –  Rachel Lapidos

 

Inappropriate use of alcohol is a major societal problem. In fact, about 25% of US adults have engaged in binge drinking in the last month and 7% have what is termed an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol abuse is very dangerous and frequently fatal. Nearly 88,000 people in the US and 3.3 million globally die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Drunk driving accounted for over 10,000 deaths; 31% of all driving fatalities. Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to contribute to over 200 diseases including alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. It is estimated that over 5% of the burden of disease and injury worldwide is attributable to alcohol consumption. These are striking and alarming statistics and indicate that controlling alcohol intake is an important priority for the individual and society

 

It has been found that mindfulness training has been successfully applied to treating alcohol abuse. It appears to increase the ability of the drinker to control alcohol intake. Stress appears to increase cravings for alcohol and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce responses to stress. Since, mindfulness appears to hold promise as a treatment for excessive alcohol intake, there is a need to examine the ability of meditation training in reducing alcohol-related choices in response to stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Ultra-brief breath counting (mindfulness) training promotes recovery from stress-induced alcohol-seeking in student drinkers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959458/), Shuai and colleagues recruited university students who were not teetotalers. They viewed pairs of pictures of alcohol or food and were asked to choose one for enlargement. Then they were randomly assigned to listen to a 6-minute recording of either a passage from a book or breath counting instructions and counted their breaths. They then repeated the picture choice task but with loud and unpleasant industrial noise playing. They rated their subjective levels of happiness and annoyance before testing, after listening to the recordings, and at the end of the final picture choice session.

 

They found that the breath counting participants had a significant increase in happiness and decrease in annoyance following the breath counting while the control participants had a significant decrease in happiness and increase in annoyance. Also, the breath counting participants were significantly happier and less annoyed than the control participants after the stressful picture choice condition. Finally, they found that in the stressful condition both groups increased their choice of alcohol related pictures but the breath counting group decreased their choices of alcohol related pictures over time while the control group did not.

 

This is an interesting laboratory study. But it should be kept in mind that the findings may or may not apply to real-world alcohol seeking. But the findings suggest that a very brief session of breath counting increases happiness and decreases feelings of annoyance and makes the participants more resistant to stress reducing happiness and increasing annoyance and allows the participants to recover faster from stress effects on alcohol choices.

 

These results suggest that brief breath counting meditation improves mood and makes the participants recover faster from choosing alcohol-related following stress. These results may suggest how meditation improves drinkers’ ability to better control their intake. It does so by improving mood and decreasing the effect of stress on mood and alcohol intake.

 

So, reduce alcohol-related choices to alleviate stress with brief meditation.

 

There are many practices and applications of meditation to stop drinking. Meditation teaches us that we don’t have to react to dispiriting thoughts and cravings. We learn that we have choices, and can choose to remain in the present moment while acknowledging the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that habitually trigger maladjusted behavior. We learn that letting go and self-acceptance are possible, and that they are enough.” – 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

 

Shuai, R., Bakou, A. E., Hardy, L., & Hogarth, L. (2020). Ultra-brief breath counting (mindfulness) training promotes recovery from stress-induced alcohol-seeking in student drinkers. Addictive behaviors, 102, 106141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106141

 

Abstract

The therapeutic effect of mindfulness interventions on problematic drinking is thought to be driven by increased resilience to the impact of stress on negative mood and alcohol-seeking behaviour, but this claim needs empirical support. To address this hypothesis, the current study tested whether brief training of one component of mindfulness – breath counting – would reduce drinkers’ sensitivity to the effect of noise stress on subjective mood and alcohol-seeking behaviour. Baseline alcohol-seeking was measured by choice to view alcohol versus food thumbnail pictures in 192 student drinkers. Participants then received a 6-minute audio file which either trained breath counting or recited a popular science extract, in separate groups. All participants were then stressed by a loud industrial noise and alcohol-seeking was measured again simultaneously to quantify the change from baseline. Subjective mood was measured after all three stages (baseline, post intervention, post stress test). The breath counting group were instructed to deploy this technique during the stress test. Results showed that the breath counting versus control intervention improved subjective mood relative to baseline, attenuated the worsening of subjective mood produced by stress induction, and accelerated recovery from a stress induced increase in alcohol-seeking behaviour. Exploratory moderation analysis showed that this accelerated recovery from stress induced alcohol-seeking by breath counting was weaker in more alcohol dependent participants. Mindfulness therapies may improve problematic drinking by increasing resilience to stress induced negative mood and alcohol-seeking, as observed in this study. The weaker therapeutic effect of breath counting in more dependent drinkers may reveal limitations to this intervention strategy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959458/

 

Improve Emotion Regulation and Attention with Zen Meditation

Improve Emotion Regulation and Attention with Zen Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.” – Mayo Clinic

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

There is a vast array of techniques for the development of mindfulness. They include a variety of forms of meditationyogamindful movementscontemplative prayer, and combinations of practices. Zen meditation has been practiced for centuries but has only recently been studied with empirical science.

 

In today’s Research News article “Zen meditation neutralizes emotional evaluation, but not implicit affective processing of words.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7029852/), Lusnig and colleagues recruited adult experienced meditators and meditation naïve participants. The meditators engaged in a 90-minute Zen meditation session while the control group watched a neutral 90-minute documentary movie. They were measured before and after the session for attention, concentration, intelligence, and personality, and performed a lexical decision task to positive and negative emotion laden words, and neutral words varying in arousal level. They also reported the emotional valence of the words from -3 as very negative to +3 as very positive.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the comparison group after the single meditation session, the meditators rated the valence of the emotion laden words as more neutral and detected words significantly faster. The researchers interpreted these findings as indicative of meditation increasing attention (faster response times) and decreasing emotionality (neutralized valence ratings).

 

These findings are not surprising in that previous research has demonstrated that mindfulness practices improve attention and improve emotion regulation. They are surprising, however, in demonstrating that a single meditation session with experienced meditators is sufficient to activate these effects. It would have been interesting to also look at the effects of a meditation session on the meditation naïve participants to determine if the effects were due to meditation in general or to a difference in the effects of meditation on experienced versus naïve meditators.

 

So, improve emotion regulation and attention with Zen meditation.

 

mindfulness meditation preaches accepting and letting go of negative emotions. Practicing this sort of behavior, scientists say, seems to improve meditators’ ability to control their emotions even when they’re not meditating. It seems to give meditators more emotional ballast, making them less easily swept up in the ups and downs of the present.” – Joseph Stromberg

 

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

 

Lusnig, L., Radach, R., Mueller, C. J., & Hofmann, M. J. (2020). Zen meditation neutralizes emotional evaluation, but not implicit affective processing of words. PloS one, 15(2), e0229310. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229310

 

Abstract

There is ample evidence that meditation can regulate emotions. It is questionable, however, whether meditation can down-regulate sensitivity to emotional experience in high-level cognitive representations such as words. The present study shows that adept Zen meditators rated the emotional valence of (low-arousal) positive and (high- and low-arousal) negative nouns significantly more neutral after a meditation session, while there was no change of valence ratings after a comparison intervention in the comparison group. Because the Zen group provided greater “openness to experience” and lower „need for achievement and performance” in the “Big Five” personality assessment, we used these scores as covariates for all analyses. We found no differential emotion effects of Zen meditation during lexical decision, but we replicated the slow-down of low-arousal negative words during lexical decision in both groups. Interestingly, Zen meditation elicited a global facilitation of all response times, which we discuss in terms of increased attentional resources after meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7029852/

 

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While scientists do not yet fully understand the true origin of consciousness, many agree that it can be measured within the brainwave patterns of the individual.” – EOC Institute

 

In meditation there occurs a number of different states of consciousness. One of the highest levels achieved is content free awareness. In this state there is nothing that the meditator is aware of other than awareness. The meditator is aware and aware of being aware, but nothing else. Changes in awareness are associated with changes in the activity of the brain which can be seen in the Electroencephalogram (EEG) and also in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But content free awareness is elusive and what activity in the brain accompanies it is unknown.

 

In today’s Research News article “Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A), Winter and colleagues recruited an meditator with 40 years of experience and over 50,000 hours of formal meditation practice. They simultaneously recorded heart rate, respiration, and brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during rest, attention to external stimuli, attention to internal stimuli including memories, and during meditation in a state of content-minimized awareness. After the content free awareness “he reported that he had no awareness of any mental content or any sensory event, including the noise of the MRI scanner. Similarly, he reported having had no experience of self, time, or space of any kind whatsoever at this stage.”

 

They found that heart rate and respiration decreased over the various states reaching its lowest levels during content free awareness. They found that there was a sharp decrease in EEG alpha rhythm power and increase in theta rhythm power during content free awareness. Finally, they found a decrease in functional connectivity in the posterior default mode network and increase in the dorsal attention network during content free awareness.

 

These are interesting results but it must be kept in mind that this was from a single adept expert meditator. Nevertheless, they provide a glimpse at the state of the nervous system during the deepest mental state occurring during meditation. The default mode network is involved in mind wandering, daydreaming, and self-referential thought. The fact that the connectivity within this system was markedly reduced during content free awareness suggests that non-specific mental activity and the idea of self are greatly reduced if not eliminated. The fact that connectivity within the dorsal attentional network increased while there was no increase in the sensory areas of the brain suggests that during content free awareness there was a focused attention that was decoupled from sensory experience. Hence, the brain activity observed in this meditator markedly corresponds to the mental state achieved.

 

So, content free awareness is associated with increased brain attentional activity and decreased self-awareness activity.

 

“The higher state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states. Here, we know we “are” but we don’t know “where” we are. This knowledge that I “am,” but I don’t know “where” I am or “what” I am, is called Shiva.” – Ravi Shankar

 

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

 

Winter U, LeVan P, Borghardt TL, Akin B, Wittmann M, Leyens Y and Schmidt S (2020) Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator. Front. Psychol. 10:3064. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064

 

The minimal neural correlate of the conscious state, regardless of the neural activity correlated with the ever-changing contents of experience, has still not been identified. Different attempts have been made, mainly by comparing the normal waking state to seemingly unconscious states, such as deep sleep or general anesthesia. A more direct approach would be the neuroscientific investigation of conscious states that are experienced as free of any specific phenomenal content. Here we present serendipitous data on content-free awareness (CFA) during an EEG-fMRI assessment reported by an extraordinarily qualified meditator with over 50,000 h of practice. We focused on two specific cortical networks related to external and internal awareness, i.e., the dorsal attention network (DAN) and the default mode network (DMN), to explore the neural correlates of this experience. The combination of high-resolution EEG and ultrafast fMRI enabled us to analyze the dynamic aspects of fMRI connectivity informed by EEG power analysis. The neural correlates of CFA were characterized by a sharp decrease in alpha power and an increase in theta power as well as increases in functional connectivity in the DAN and decreases in the posterior DMN. We interpret these findings as correlates of a top-down-initiated attentional state excluding external sensory stimuli and internal mentation from conscious experience. We conclude that the investigation of states of CFA could provide valuable input for new methodological and conceptual approaches in the search for the minimal neural correlate of consciousness.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A

 

Improve Brain Processing of Negative Emotions with Meditation

Improve Brain Processing of Negative Emotions with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

meditation physically impacts the extraordinarily complex organ between our ears. . . .  meditation nurtures the parts of the brain that contribute to well-being. Furthermore, it seems that a regular practice deprives the stress and anxiety-related parts of the brain of their nourishment.” – Mindworks

 

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. Mindfulness training produces changes in the brain’s electrical activity. This can be measured by recording the electroencephalogram (EEG). The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp.

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves emotion regulation by altering the brain. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training. One method to observe emotional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific emotional stimuli. These are called event-related potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time.

 

The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus. The P300 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 1.5 to 5.0 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The P300 component is thought to reflect inhibitory processes. The P600 response in the ERP is a positive going response occurring between a 6.0 to 10 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The P600 component is thought to be a language relevant response particularly to linguistic errors.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Meditation on Comprehension of Statements About One-Self and Others: A Pilot ERP and Behavioral Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6962228/), Savostyanov and colleagues recruited healthy right handed adults and separated them according to their meditation experience into non-meditators, 3-5 years of experience, and greater than 10 years of experience. While the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded the participants were presented with sentences on a computer screen. Half of the sentences contained blatant grammatical errors. The participants were asked to press a button if the sentence contained a grammatical error. There were 5 kinds of sentences that suggested 1) aggression of participant, 2) aggression of other people, 3) anxiety of participant, 4) anxiety of other people, and 5) neutral.

 

They found that it took significantly longer to detect correct sentences but with significantly greater accuracy than those with grammatical errors. Sentences about self were solved significantly faster and with greater accuracy than sentences about others. Sentences about anxiety were solved significantly faster than sentences about aggression. Meditators responded significantly faster than non-meditators. Sentences about anxiety and aggression were solved significantly faster by meditators than non-meditators. Non-meditators were significantly more accurate with sentences about self than sentences about others while there was no difference for meditators. In the evoked potentials (ERP), the P300 response was larger for long-term meditators than for moderate-term meditators which were significantly larger than for non-meditators.

 

These results are complex, but reflect an influence of meditation practice on the ability to respond to emotionally charged sentences. In particular, the results show that meditators are better at dealing with negative emotions than non-meditators. The larger P300 response in the meditators may reflect a greater ability in meditators to inhibit responses to negative emotions allowing them to respond faster when these emotions are present. These results are in line with previous findings that meditation training improves emotion regulation.

 

So, improve brain processing of negative emotions with meditation.

 

It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation. You don’t have to consume as much energy at rest and you can more easily get yourself into a more relaxed state.” – Bin He

 

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

 

Savostyanov, A., Tamozhnikov, S., Bocharov, A., Saprygin, A., Matushkin, Y., Lashin, S., Kolpakova, G., Sudobin, K., & Knyazev, G. (2020). The Effect of Meditation on Comprehension of Statements About One-Self and Others: A Pilot ERP and Behavioral Study. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 437. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00437

 

Abstract

The main goal of this study was to examine the effect of long-term meditation practice on behavioral indicators and ERP peak characteristics during an error-recognition task, where participants were presented with emotionally negative (evoking anxiety or aggression) written sentences describing self-related or non-self-related emotional state and personality traits. In total, 200 sentences written in Russian with varying emotional coloring were presented during the task, with half of the sentences containing a grammatical error that the participants were asked to identify. The EEG was recorded in age-matched control individuals (n = 17) and two groups of Samatha meditators with relatively short- (3–5 years’ experience, n = 18) and long-term (10–30 years’ experience, n = 18) practice experience. Task performance time (TPT) and accuracy of error detection (AED) were chosen as behavioral values. Amplitude, time latency and cortical distribution of P300 and P600 peaks of ERP were used as a value of speech-related brain activity. All statistical effects of meditation were estimated, controlling for age and sex. No behavioral differences between two groups of meditators were found. General TPT was shorter for both groups of meditators compared to the control group. Non-meditators reacted significantly slower to sentences about aggression than to sentences about anxiety or non-emotional sentences, whereas no significance was found between meditator groups. Non-meditators had better AED for the sentences about one-self than for the sentences about other people, whereas the meditators did not show any significant difference. The amplitude of P300 peak in frontal and left temporal scalp regions was higher for long-term meditators in comparison with both intermediate and control groups. The latency of P300 and P600 in left frontal and temporal regions positively correlated with TPT, whereas the amplitude of P300 in these regions had a negative correlation with TPT. We demonstrate that long-term meditation practice increases the ability of an individual to process negative emotional stimuli. The differences in behavioral reactions after onset of negative information that was self-related and non-self-related, which is typical for non-meditators, disappeared due to the influence of meditation. ERP results could be interpreted as a value of increase in voluntary control over emotional state during meditational practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6962228/

 

Enhance Attention and Attentional Brain Systems with Meditation

Enhance Attention and Attentional Brain Systems with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention,” – Anthony Zanesco

 

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

 

There is evidence that mindfulness training improves attention by altering the brain. It appears That mindfulness training increases the size, connectivity, and activity of areas of the brain that are involved in paying attention. In today’s Research News article “Enhanced Attentional Network by Short-Term Intensive Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03073/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1245141_69_Psycho_20200213_arts_A), Kwak and colleagues recruited healthy meditation naïve adults and randomly assigned them to a 4 -day 3-night structured residential retreat of either meditation practice (19 hours total practice) or relaxation.

 

Before and after the retreat the participants underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of their brains. While they were in the scanner attention was measured with an attention network task. This included a flanker task and a temporal and spatial cueing task. These tasks measure 3 attentional processes, alerting, orienting, and executive control.

 

They found that after the meditation retreat but not the relaxation retreat there was a significant improvement in executive attentional control. The fMRI revealed that the meditation retreat group in comparison to baseline and the relaxation group had significant increases in activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, both components of the so-called executive control network. They also found that the better the performance on the executive attentional control task, the greater the increase in activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. Additionally, they found that the meditation group had significant increases in the activity of the so called attentional orienting network in the brain including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, superior and inferior frontal gyrus, frontal eye fields, and anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, they found that the meditation group had significant increases in the activity of the so-called attentional alerting network in the brain including the superior temporal gyrus and the insula.

 

The results demonstrate that an intensive meditation retreat significantly improves attentional processes. This can be seen both behaviorally and neurologically. Behaviorally there was improvement in the executive attentional control while neurologically there were increases in the executive, orienting, and alerting attentional networks. These results suggest that meditation practice alters to brain systems underlying attention resulting in improved attentional ability. These changes may underlie many of the benefits produced by meditation practice.

 

So, enhance attention and attentional brain systems with meditation.

 

With more distractions at your fingertips than ever before, focused attention has become “an endangered species.” Luckily, . . . as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can help turn the tide, and these benefits can be observed from the moment a person begins their practice.” – Nicole Bayes-Fleming

 

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

 

Kwak S, Kim S-Y, Bae D, Hwang W-J, Cho KIK, Lim K-O, Park H-Y, Lee TY and Kwon JS (2020) Enhanced Attentional Network by Short-Term Intensive Meditation. Front. Psychol. 10:3073. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03073

 

While recent studies have suggested behavioral effects of short-term meditation on the executive attentional functions, functional changes in the neural correlates of attentional networks after short-term meditation have been unspecified. Here, we conducted a randomized control trial to investigate the effects of a 4-day intensive meditation on the neural correlates of three attentional functions: alerting, orienting, and executive attention. Twenty-three participants in meditation practice and 14 participants in a relaxation retreat group performed attention network test (ANT) during functional magnetic resonance imaging both before and immediately after intervention. The meditation group showed significantly improved behavioral performance in the executive control network in ANT after the intervention. Moreover, neural activities in the executive control network, namely, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), were also significantly increased during the ANT after meditation. Interestingly, neural activity in the right ACC was significantly predicted by behavioral conflict levels in each individual in the meditation group, indicating significant effects of the program on the executive control network. Moreover, brain regions associated with the alerting and orienting networks also showed enhanced activity during the ANT after the meditation. Our study provides novel evidence on the enhancement of the attentional networks at the neural level via short-term meditation. We also suggest that short-term meditation may be beneficial to individuals at high risk of cognitive deficits by improving neural mechanisms of attention.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03073/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1245141_69_Psycho_20200213_arts_A

 

Different Meditation Types Produce Different Effects on Attention, Compassion, and Theory of Mind

Different Meditation Types Produce Different Effects on Attention, Compassion, and Theory of Mind

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The mental procedures used by various traditions and schools of meditation are fairly dissimilar. And recent scientific research has verified that these different ways of meditating activate different areas in our brain.” – Trancendental Meditation

 

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

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential benefits of mental training types for attention, compassion, and theory of mind.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891878/), Trautwein and colleagues recruited healthy adults and assigned them to one of three conditions; presence, affect, and perspective training. Each condition consisted of a 3-day retreat followed by once a week 2-hour training session for 13 weeks along with daily home practice. The presence training focused on attention to the present moment and contained focused breath meditation, walking meditation, and body scan practices. The affect training focused on developing an “accepting, kind, and compassionate stance towards oneself and others” and contained loving kindness meditation, forgiveness meditation, and affect dyad practices. The perspective training focused on the central role that thoughts play in our lives and contained meditation of observing thoughts coming and going and perspective dyads. They were measured before and after training with a cued flanker task measuring executive control and attentional reorienting and a Theory of Mind and Social Cognition task measuring social cognitive and affective functions including compassion. Theory of mind refers to the ability to observe self-awareness in self and others.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the other modules, the presence training significantly improved executive control and attentional reorienting. They also found that the affect and perspective training produced significant improvements in the socio-emotional dimension of compassion. Finally, they found that perspective training produced significantly higher scores on Theory of Mind (understanding beliefs, desires, and needs of others). Hence the three different forms of mindfulness training affected different abilities.

 

The findings suggest that training on present moment awareness affects attentional abilities but not socio-emotional and theory of mind abilities. On the other hand, affect training affects socio-emotional abilities including compassion but not attention or theory of mind abilities. Finally, the results suggest that perspective training affects socio-emotional and theory of mind abilities but not attentional abilities. These findings suggest that different mindfulness training programs should be employed to target specific problem areas for the participant. They also suggest that incorporating components from presence, affect, and perspective training may produce a training package that enhances abilities in all domains.

 

So, different meditation types produce different effects on attention, compassion, and theory of mind.

 

“Meditation is a simple strategy that can help obtain better health and a happier life. It takes time to master, as does any other skill. If a person sticks with it and is willing to experiment with the different methods, they are more likely to discover a meditation style that suits them.” – Zawn Villines

 

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

 

Trautwein, F. M., Kanske, P., Böckler, A., & Singer, T. (2020). Differential benefits of mental training types for attention, compassion, and theory of mind. Cognition, 194, 104039. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104039

 

Abstract

Mindfulness- and, more generally, meditation-based interventions increasingly gain popularity, effectively promoting cognitive, affective, and social capacities. It is unclear, however, if different types of practice have the same or specific effects on mental functioning. Here we tested three consecutive three-month training modules aimed at cultivating either attention, socio-affective qualities (such as compassion), or socio-cognitive skills (such as theory of mind), in three training cohorts and a retest control cohort (N = 332). While attentional performance improved most consistently after attention training, compassion increased most after socio-affective training and theory of mind partially improved after socio-cognitive training. These results show that specific mental training practices are needed to induce plasticity in different domains of mental functioning, providing a foundation for evidence-based development of more targeted interventions adapted to the needs of different education, labor, and health settings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891878/

 

Focused Meditation Changes Clustering of Brain Systems

Focused Meditation Changes Clustering of Brain Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

meditation . . . 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 G. Walton

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. These brain changes with mindfulness practice are important and need to be further investigates.

 

Meditation practice results in a shift in mental processing. It produces a reduction of mind wandering and self-referential thinking and an increase in attention and higher-level thinking. The neural system that underlie mind wandering is termed the Default Mode Network (DMN) and consists in a set of brain structures including medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate, lateral temporal cortex and the hippocampus. The neural system that underlies executive functions such as attention and higher-level thinking is termed the Fronto-Parietal Network (FPN). and includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and cingulate cortex.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. In today’s Research News article “Revealing Changes in Brain Functional Networks Caused by Focused-Attention Meditation Using Tucker3 Clustering.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6990115/), Miyoshi and colleagues examine the changes in the brain’s functional systems resulting from meditation practice. They recruited meditation naïve adults. They had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during a 5-minute rest and a 5-minute breath-following (Focused) meditation.

 

They found in comparison to rest, during the brief focused meditation there was increased clustering in “eight brain regions, Frontal Inferior Operculum L, Occipital Inferior R, ParaHippocampal R, Cerebellum 10 R, Cingulum Middle R, Cerebellum Crus1 L, Occipital Inferior L, and Paracentral Lobule R increased through the meditation.” These are all regions involved in the Default Mode Network (DMN), the Somatosensory Network (SSN), and the Fronto-Parietal Network (FPN). The activity of these clusters best discriminated between the resting and focused meditative states.

 

These results make sense in that during a typical meditation there will be attentional focus, mind wandering, and return to attentional focus. The attentional focus is thought to involve the Fronto-Parietal Network (FPN). The mind wandering is thought to involve the Default Mode Network (DMN). Finally, returning from mind wandering to attentional focus is thought to involve Somatosensory Network (SSN). Hence the increased clustering in these systems seen in the focused meditative state would be expected given what is known of neural systems.

 

These results are from a very brief single focused meditation by meditation naïve participants. So, it does not reflect neuroplastic changes in the nervous system that would be expected in practiced meditators. Rather the results indicate the short term activation of clustered systems in the brain that if practiced over time would produce neuroplastic changes.

 

So, focused meditation changes clustering of brain systems.

 

long-term, active meditative practice decreases activity in the default network. This is the brain network associated with the brain at rest — just letting your mind wander with no particular goal in mind — and includes brain areas like the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.” – Kayt Sukel

 

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

 

Miyoshi, T., Tanioka, K., Yamamoto, S., Yadohisa, H., Hiroyasu, T., & Hiwa, S. (2020). Revealing Changes in Brain Functional Networks Caused by Focused-Attention Meditation Using Tucker3 Clustering. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 473. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00473

 

Abstract

This study examines the effects of focused-attention meditation on functional brain states in novice meditators. There are a number of feature metrics for functional brain states, such as functional connectivity, graph theoretical metrics, and amplitude of low frequency fluctuation (ALFF). It is necessary to choose appropriate metrics and also to specify the region of interests (ROIs) from a number of brain regions. Here, we use a Tucker3 clustering method, which simultaneously selects the feature vectors (graph theoretical metrics and fractional ALFF) and the ROIs that can discriminate between resting and meditative states based on the characteristics of the given data. In this study, breath-counting meditation, one of the most popular forms of focused-attention meditation, was used and brain activities during resting and meditation states were measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results indicated that the clustering coefficients of the eight brain regions, Frontal Inferior Operculum L, Occipital Inferior R, ParaHippocampal R, Cerebellum 10 R, Cingulum Middle R, Cerebellum Crus1 L, Occipital Inferior L, and Paracentral Lobule R increased through the meditation. Our study also provided the framework of data-driven brain functional analysis and confirmed its effectiveness on analyzing neural basis of focused-attention meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6990115/