Improve Episodic Memory and Alter Brain Activity during Memory Retrieval with Mindfulness

Improve Episodic Memory and Alter Brain Activity during Memory Retrieval with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A critical part of attention (and working memory capacity) is being able to ignore distraction. There has been growing evidence that meditation training (in particular mindfulness meditation) helps develop attentional control, and that this can start to happen very quickly.” – About Memory

 

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.

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Increases in Theta Oscillatory Activity During Episodic Memory Retrieval Following Mindfulness Meditation Training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6738165/), Nyhus and colleagues recruited adult participants and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive 4-weeks of once a week for 1 hour of mindfulness meditation training along with 20 minutes of daily home practice. They were measured for episodic memory and mindfulness before and after training. They learned words either by imagining a place associated with them or rating their pleasantness. The electroencephalogram (EEG) was measured from the scalp as the participants were engaged in an episodic memory task.

 

They found that meditation training produced a significant increase in mindfulness, especially the observe, describe, and act with awareness facets. The meditation group were also significantly better at identifying the source (place or pleasantness) of the word in the episodic memory task. With the EEG they found that the meditation group after training had significant increases in power in the Theta frequency band (4-7.5 hz.) in the frontal and parietal cortical areas of the brain. The increase in theta power were correlated with the level of the describe facet of mindfulness.

 

Theta power has been previously found to increase during tasks that test episodic memory. That was true here also. But in the present study the increases in theta power were greater after mindfulness meditation training. This suggests that the training altered the nervous system making it more responsive to episodic memories. The fact that mindfulness has been found to improve memory and that source memory was improved in the present study would appear to support this assertion. Hence, it would appear that mindfulness meditation improves episodic memory by enhancing brain processing of memories.

 

So, improve episodic memory and alter brain activity during memory retrieval with mindfulness.

 

“The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, . . . . The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” – Alice Walton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Nyhus, E., Engel, W. A., Pitfield, T. D., & Vakkur, I. (2019). Increases in Theta Oscillatory Activity During Episodic Memory Retrieval Following Mindfulness Meditation Training. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 311. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00311

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve episodic memory and increase theta oscillations which are known to play a role in episodic memory retrieval. The present study examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on episodic memory retrieval and theta oscillations. Using a longitudinal design, subjects in the mindfulness meditation experimental group who underwent 4 weeks of mindfulness meditation training and practice were compared to a waitlist control group. During the pre-training and post-training experimental sessions, subjects completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and studied adjectives and either imagined a scene (Place Task) or judged its pleasantness (Pleasant Task). During the recognition test, subjects decided which task was performed with each word (“Old Place Task” or “Old Pleasant Task”) or “New.” FFMQ scores and source discrimination were greater post-training than pre-training in the mindfulness meditation experimental group. Electroencephalography (EEG) results revealed that for the mindfulness meditation experimental group theta power was greater post-training than pre-training in right frontal and left parietal channels and changes in FFMQ scores correlated with changes in theta oscillations in right frontal channels (n = 20). The present results suggest that mindfulness meditation increases source memory retrieval and theta oscillations in a fronto-parietal network.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6738165/

 

Change the Brain’s Electrical Activity to during Sleep and Wakefulness with Meditation

Change the Brain’s Electrical Activity to during Sleep and Wakefulness with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Soon after beginning a meditation practice, many people report needing less sleep.” – Eoc Institute

 

We spend about a third of our lives in sleep, but we know very little about it. It is known that sleep is not a unitary phenomenon. Rather, it involves several different states that can be characterized by differences in physiological activation, neural activity, and subjective experiences. In the waking state the nervous system shows EEG activity that is termed low voltage fast activity. The electrical activity recorded from the scalp is rapidly changing but only with very small size waves. When sleep first occurs, the individual enters into a stage called slow-wave sleep, sometimes called non-REM sleep. The heart rate and blood pressure decline even further and the muscles become very soft and relaxed. In this state the EEG shows a characteristic waveform known as the theta rhythm, which is a large change in voltage recorded that oscillates at a rate of 4 to 8 cycles per second. As the individual goes even deeper into sleep something remarkable happens as the individual enters into rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Here the muscles become extremely inhibited and flaccid, but the eyes move rapidly under the closed eyelids as if the individual was looking around. At the same time the heart rate and blood pressure increase and become very variable and sometimes very high.

 

It has been shown that mindfulness training, including meditation practice, affects sleep and tends to improve sleep and reduce insomnia. But there is need to further investigate the effects of meditation practice, particularly long-term meditation practice, on brain activity during sleep and wakefulness to begin to understand the mechanisms by which meditation practice affects sleep and wakefulness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Acute effects of meditation training on the waking and sleeping brain: Is it all about homeostasis?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534352/), Dentico and colleagues recruited long-term meditators (at least 3-years of experience) and a group of age and gender matched non-meditators. They had their overnight electroencephalograms (EEG) recorded during sleep and after waking in the lab under three conditions, baseline, after a day of intensive focused meditation, and after a day of intensive loving kindness meditation. The meditation simulated a meditation retreat format for 2 days. The non-meditators rested during similar periods. They were also measured for depression, mental health issues, sleep disorders, insomnia, fatigue, sleepiness, and common phenomenological features of meditation.

 

They found that the sleep and waking EEGs were not different between the two types of meditation, focused or loving kindness. After intensive meditation practice there were significant increases after sleep in waking slow (8 hz.) and fast (15 hz.) waves in the EEG recorded from the prefrontal and parietal cortical regions. They also reported that the greater the amount of previous meditation experience the greater the waking high frequency waveforms after a day of intensive meditation. They also found that the EEG activities in in the theta frequency range (4-8 hz.) in different brain regions were highly related during non-REM sleep in long-term meditators.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that long-term meditation changes the brains activity during both sleep and wakefulness. The regions most affected, the prefrontal and parietal cortical regions, are associated with attentional processes. So, the results suggest that long-term meditation changes the brain to improve its ability to focus attention. They also suggest that long-term meditation increases the synchronization in different brain regions of activity during non-REM sleep. This may signal deeper levels of sleep. Regardless, the results suggest that meditation experience changes the brain’s activity in sleep and wakefulness.

 

So, change the brain’s electrical activity to during sleep and wakefulness with meditation.

 

meditation has lasting effects on the plastic brain, and that gamma activity during non-REM sleep may be a reliable marker for the extent of these changes.” – Plastic Brain

 

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

 

Dentico D, Bachhuber D, Riedner BA, Ferrarelli F, Tononi G, Davidson RJ, Lutz A. Acute effects of meditation training on the waking and sleeping brain: Is it all about homeostasis? Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Sep;48(6):2310-2321. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14131. PMID: 30144201; PMCID: PMC6534352.

 

Abstract

Our recent finding of a meditation-related increase in low-frequency NREM sleep EEG oscillatory activities peaking in the theta-alpha range (4–12 Hz) was not predicted. From a consolidated body of research on sleep homeostasis, we would expect a change peaking in slow wave activity (1–4 Hz) following an intense meditation session. Here we compared these changes in sleep with the post-meditation changes in waking rest scalp power to further characterize their functional significance. High-density EEG recordings were acquired from 27 long-term meditators (LTM) on three separate days at baseline and following two 8-hr sessions of either mindfulness or compassion-and-loving-kindness meditation. Thirty-one meditation-naïve participants (MNP) were recorded at the same time points. As a common effect of meditation practice, we found increases in low and fast waking EEG oscillations for LTM only, peaking at eight and 15 Hz respectively, over prefrontal, and left centro-parietal electrodes. Paralleling our previous findings in sleep, there was no significant difference between meditation styles in LTM as well as no difference between matched sessions in MNP. Meditation-related changes in wakefulness and NREM sleep were correlated across space and frequency. A significant correlation was found in the EEG low frequencies (<12 Hz). Since the peak of coupling was observed in the theta-alpha oscillatory range, sleep homeostatic response to meditation practice is not sufficient to explain our findings. Another likely phenomenon into play is a reverberation of meditation-related processes during subsequent sleep. Future studies should ascertain the interplay between these processes in promoting the beneficial effects of meditation practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534352/

 

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/

 

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 Attentional Monitoring of Others Emotions with Mindfulness

Improve Attentional Monitoring of Others Emotions with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“experience with mindfulness meditation is associated with distinct reactions to emotional provocations in attention and social decision-making tasks, and have implications for understanding the relationship between mindfulness meditation and emotion regulation.” – Deidre Reis

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. 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 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 N200 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a negative going electrical response occurring between a 2.0 to 3.5 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N200 component is thought to reflect attentional monitoring of conflict. The P300 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 3.5 to 6.0 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The P300 component is thought to reflect inhibitory processes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Brief mindfulness training enhances cognitive control in socioemotional contexts: Behavioral and neural evidence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6641506/), Quaglia and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to receive 4 20-minute sessions of either mindfulness training or book listening. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness and were tested with an emotional go no-go task in which they were asked to press a button when a picture of a face was presented that expressed a particular emotion and not respond to faces with other emotions. The pictures were of faces expression either anger, happiness, or neutral emotions. During the task the brain electrical activity was recorded with an electroencephalograph (EEG).

 

They found, as expected, that the group receiving mindfulness training, in comparison to the book listening group, had significantly higher mindfulness following training. They found that the mindfulness group, after training had significantly better scores, including both speed and accuracy, for facial emotion discrimination than the control group. With the evoked potentials, they found that on no-go trials, trials where the target facial emotion was not present. The mindfulness trained participants had significantly larger N200 amplitudes than the controls.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training makes the individual more sensitive to emotional expressions by others. The evoked potentials in the EEGs suggest that mindfulness training did this by enhancing the brain’s ability to pay attention and monitor conflict allowing the individual to better withhold responses when appropriate. This could, in part, explain the improvement of emotion regulation with mindfulness training and may be the basis for the prior findings that mindfulness training improves responding in social contexts.

 

So, improve attentional monitoring of others emotions with mindfulness.

 

“our cognitive structures, as a developmental system, have the capacity to advance to a higher (more accurate) level of understanding about social and psychological reality, as the result of learning from the interacting experiences.” – Key Sun

 

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

 

Quaglia, J. T., Zeidan, F., Grossenbacher, P. G., Freeman, S. P., Braun, S. E., Martelli, A., … Brown, K. W. (2019). Brief mindfulness training enhances cognitive control in socioemotional contexts: Behavioral and neural evidence. PloS one, 14(7), e0219862. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219862

 

Abstract

In social contexts, the dynamic nature of others’ emotions places unique demands on attention and emotion regulation. Mindfulness, characterized by heightened and receptive moment-to-moment attending, may be well-suited to meet these demands. In particular, mindfulness may support more effective cognitive control in social situations via efficient deployment of top-down attention. To test this, a randomized controlled study examined effects of mindfulness training (MT) on behavioral and neural (event-related potentials [ERPs]) responses during an emotional go/no-go task that tested cognitive control in the context of emotional facial expressions that tend to elicit approach or avoidance behavior. Participants (N = 66) were randomly assigned to four brief (20 min) MT sessions or to structurally equivalent book learning control sessions. Relative to the control group, MT led to improved discrimination of facial expressions, as indexed by d-prime, as well as more efficient cognitive control, as indexed by response time and accuracy, and particularly for those evidencing poorer discrimination and cognitive control at baseline. MT also produced better conflict monitoring of behavioral goal-prepotent response tendencies, as indexed by larger No-Go N200 ERP amplitudes, and particularly so for those with smaller No-Go amplitude at baseline. Overall, findings are consistent with MT’s potential to enhance deployment of early top-down attention to better meet the unique cognitive and emotional demands of socioemotional contexts, particularly for those with greater opportunity for change. Findings also suggest that early top-down attention deployment could be a cognitive mechanism correspondent to the present-oriented attention commonly used to explain regulatory benefits of mindfulness more broadly.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6641506/

 

Different Activity of the Brain is Associated with Meditation

Different Activity of the Brain is Associated with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Backed by 1000’s of studies, meditation is the neuroscientific community’s most proven way to upgrade the human brain.” – EOC Institute

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that mindfulness practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/), Lardone and colleagues recruited healthy adult participants who had practiced Vipassana meditation for at least one year and participants who had never meditated. They recorded functional connectivity of brain regions with magnetoencephalography, a technique to record brain activity.

 

They found that in comparison to non-meditators, the meditators had increased activity in the Amygdala in the gamma frequency band (25-100 hz), the Hippocampus, the Caudate and the Cingulum in the Theta frequency band (4-8 hz), and the prefrontal cortex in the alpha frequency band (8-12 hz). Hence, there were significant differences in neural activity in the brains of meditators vs. non-meditators.

 

This study is correlative and causation cannot be determined. Meditation may cause these brain activity changes, or people with these kinds of brain activity are likely to engage in meditation, or some third factor may cause them both to covary. Nevertheless, it is clear that meditation practice is associated with different brain activity. This may be the physiological process that underlies some or all of the widespread psychological and physical benefits of meditation practice.

 

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

 

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

 

Lardone, A., Liparoti, M., Sorrentino, P., Rucco, R., Jacini, F., Polverino, A., … Mandolesi, L. (2018). Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study. Neural plasticity, 2018, 5340717. doi:10.1155/2018/5340717

 

Abstract

It has been suggested that the practice of meditation is associated to neuroplasticity phenomena, reducing age-related brain degeneration and improving cognitive functions. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the brain connectivity changes in meditators. In the present work, we aim to describe the possible long-term effects of meditation on the brain networks. To this aim, we used magnetoencephalography to study functional resting-state brain networks in Vipassana meditators. We observed topological modifications in the brain network in meditators compared to controls. More specifically, in the theta band, the meditators showed statistically significant (p corrected = 0.009) higher degree (a centrality index that represents the number of connections incident upon a given node) in the right hippocampus as compared to controls. Taking into account the role of the hippocampus in memory processes, and in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, meditation might have a potential role in a panel of preventive strategies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/

 

Alter Brain Activation Regardless of Depression with Mindfulness

Alter Brain Activation Regardless of Depression with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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 can be relatively permanent and 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.

 

The brain produces rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The neuroplastic changes in the brain may be seen by recording the brain’s electrical activity with the electroencephalogram (EEG). It is possible that the EEG can be used to indirectly observe the activity of the brain and changes in the brain activation produced by mindfulness training and its consequent improvements in mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spiking Neural Network Modelling Approach Reveals How Mindfulness Training Rewires the Brain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478904/), Doborjeh and colleagues recruited adults and provided them with a 6-week, once a week for 90-120 minutes, mindfulness training. They separated the participants based upon a paper and pencil measure of depression into low depression, no depression, and high depression groups. Before and after training they measured the participants brain electrical activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG). They then employed a sophisticated data analysis algorithm to follow bursts of electrical activity through the brain (Spiking Neural Network).

 

They found that the no depression and low depression groups had overall higher activation than the high depression group. After mindfulness training the high depression group had higher activation at the frontal, temporal, frontocentral, and centroparietal sites, while the no depression group had higher activation of the frontal and occipitalparietal cortical areas, and the low depression group had higher activation at the frontal, temporal, and frontocentral sites.

 

The results are interesting and suggest that the Spiking Neural Network analysis of the electroencephalogram (EEG) can detect differences in brain activation in groups varying in levels of depression and can also detect neuroplastic changes resulting from mindfulness training. This is an important demonstration as it verifies that the easy, non-invasive, and economical EEG recording technique can be used to assess the details of neural function and the changes in neural function that may occur after an intervention.

 

Additionally, the results suggest that depressed individuals have quite low levels of brain activation which may, in part, be responsible for their depression. The results also show that mindfulness training in these depressed individuals can, to some extent, raise the levels of brain activation. This may be responsible, in part, for the ability of mindfulness training to decrease depression levels in depressed individuals. In addition, the results suggest that even in low and non-depressed individuals, mindfulness training can further increase brain activation. This may be responsible for the improvement in emotion regulation and mood in normal individuals that is produced by mindfulness training.

 

So, alter brain activation regardless of depression with mindfulness.

 

“There is emerging evidence that mindfulness meditation might cause neuroplastic changes in the structure and function of brain regions involved in regulation of attention, emotion and self-awareness.” – Britta Hőlzel

 

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

 

Doborjeh, Z., Doborjeh, M., Taylor, T., Kasabov, N., Wang, G. Y., Siegert, R., & Sumich, A. (2019). Spiking Neural Network Modelling Approach Reveals How Mindfulness Training Rewires the Brain. Scientific reports, 9(1), 6367. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-42863-x

 

Abstract

There has been substantial interest in Mindfulness Training (MT) to understand how it can benefit healthy individuals as well as people with a broad range of health conditions. Research has begun to delineate associated changes in brain function. However, whether measures of brain function can be used to identify individuals who are more likely to respond to MT remains unclear. The present study applies a recently developed brain-inspired Spiking Neural Network (SNN) model to electroencephalography (EEG) data to provide novel insight into: i) brain function in depression; ii) the effect of MT on depressed and non-depressed individuals; and iii) neurobiological characteristics of depressed individuals who respond to mindfulness. Resting state EEG was recorded from before and after a 6 week MT programme in 18 participants. Based on self-report, 3 groups were formed: non-depressed (ND), depressed before but not after MT (responsive, D+) and depressed both before and after MT (unresponsive, D−). The proposed SNN, which utilises a standard brain-template, was used to model EEG data and assess connectivity, as indicated by activation levels across scalp regions (frontal, frontocentral, temporal, centroparietal and occipitoparietal), at baseline and follow-up. Results suggest an increase in activation following MT that was site-specific as a function of the group. Greater initial activation levels were seen in ND compared to depressed groups, and this difference was maintained at frontal and occipitoparietal regions following MT. At baseline, D+ had great activation than D−. Following MT, frontocentral and temporal activation reached ND levels in D+ but remained low in D−. Findings support the SNN approach in distinguishing brain states associated with depression and responsiveness to MT. The results also demonstrated that the SNN approach can be used to predict the effect of mindfulness on an individual basis before it is even applied.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478904/

 

Eye Movements Reveal Mind Wandering During Meditation

Eye Movements Reveal Mind Wandering During Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Distractions in the mind translate to micro movements in the eyes or eyelids, and vice-versa. Stillness of eyes brings stillness of mind, and vice-versa.” – Giovanni

 

We spend a tremendous amount of waking time with our minds wandering and not on the present environment or the task at hand. We daydream, plan for the future, review the past, ruminate on our failures, exalt in our successes. In fact, we spend almost half of our waking hours off task with our mind wandering. Mind wandering is also present even during meditation. Mind wandering interferes with our concentration on the present moment. Focused meditation, on the other hand, is the antithesis of mind wandering. Indeed, the more mindful we are the less the mind wanders.

 

A system of the brain known as the Default Mode Network (DMN) becomes active during wind wandering and relatively quiet during focused on task behavior. Meditation is known to reduce the size, connectivity, and activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN).  Hence, brain activity may help identify mind wandering when it occurs. Eye movements occur even when the eyes are closed and during meditation. They may also be indicators of mind wander in during meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spontaneous eye movements during focused-attention mindfulness meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345481/), Matiz and colleagues recruited adult experienced meditators. They engaged in a 7-minute focused breath meditation or a 7-minute mind wandering where they were asked to “remember or imagine one or more events of their past or future in which they, or another person, were the protagonist.” During the session brain activity, the electroencephalogram (EEG), was recorded. They derived a measure from the EEG that indicated vertical and horizontal eye movements. They also measured the total amount of meditation experience for each participant.

 

They found that during the 7-minutes of mind wandering there were significantly more eye movements, including both vertical and horizontal movements, than during the7-minutes of  focused meditation. In addition, they found that the more meditation experience that the meditator had, the fewer the eye movements that were recorded under both conditions. Hence, experienced meditators not only move their eyes less during meditation and but also during mind wandering.

 

These are interesting findings that suggest that analysis of the brain’s electrical activity, electroencephalogram (EEG), may be able to detect when mind wandering is occurring during meditation. This could lead to the possibility of providing biofeedback to the meditator when the mind is wandering, lessening the amount of mind wandering and thereby deepening the meditative experience. This is an intriguing possibility for future research.

 

When the mind becomes steady in meditation, the eyeballs also become steady. A Yogi whose mind is calm will have a steady eye. “ – Swami Sivananda

 

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

 

Matiz, A., Crescentini, C., Fabbro, A., Budai, R., Bergamasco, M., & Fabbro, F. (2019). Spontaneous eye movements during focused-attention mindfulness meditation. PloS one, 14(1), e0210862. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0210862

 

Abstract

Oculometric measures have been proven to be useful markers of mind-wandering during visual tasks such as reading. However, little is known about ocular activity during mindfulness meditation, a mental practice naturally involving mind-wandering episodes. In order to explore this issue, we extracted closed-eyes ocular movement measurements via a covert technique (EEG recordings) from expert meditators during two repetitions of a 7-minute mindfulness meditation session, focusing on the breath, and two repetitions of a 7-minute instructed mind-wandering task. Power spectral density was estimated on both the vertical and horizontal components of eye movements. The results show a significantly smaller average amplitude of eye movements in the delta band (1–4 Hz) during mindfulness meditation than instructed mind-wandering. Moreover, participants’ meditation expertise correlated significantly with this average amplitude during both tasks, with more experienced meditators generally moving their eyes less than less experienced meditators. These findings suggest the potential use of this measure to detect mind-wandering episodes during mindfulness meditation and to assess meditation performance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345481/

 

Affect the Brain with Religious Chanting

Affect the Brain with Religious Chanting

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

According to a recent medical report, chanting Om has been associated with reducing stress. One of the biggest health benefits of Om chanting is that it brings down stress levels. It provides relief from anxiety and tension. Regular chanting ensures that you feel peaceful from within and are less distracted while doing any form of work.” – Pavankumar elkoochi

 

Contemplative practices have been shown to improve health and well-being. One ancient practice that is again receiving acceptance and use is chanting. It is a very common component of many contemplative practices. Chanting is claimed to be helpful in contemplative practice and to help improve physical and mental well-being. But there is very little empirical research on chanting or its effectiveness.

 

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. What changes in the brain that may occur with chanting are not known.

 

In today’s Research News article “The neurophysiological correlates of religious chanting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414545/), Gao and colleagues recruited participants who practiced Buddhist chanting for at least one year for 15 minutes per day. The participants were measured for brain electrical activity with the electroencephalogram (EEG) and for cardiac activity with an electrocardiogram (ECG) under 3 conditions, rest, silent Buddhist chanting (religious chanting), and silent chanting Santa Claus (non-religious chanting). One Buddhist monk who had spent years chanting underwent a function Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scan under similar conditions.

 

They found that the fMRI revealed altered activity in the posterior cingulate cortex during religious vs. non-religious chanting. In the experienced chanters the EEG activity was found to have significantly higher power in the Delta low frequency region (1-4 Hertz) from the posterior cingulate cortex region during religious, but not non-religious chanting. In addition, the ECG had significantly lower power during religious, but not non-religious chanting.

 

These findings are very interesting and suggest that religious chanting has specific effects upon the brain and peripheral nervous system that might explain some of the benefits of this chanting. The lowered cardiac power suggests relaxation and a predominance of the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. This could in part be responsible for anti-stress effects of meditation practice.

 

The posterior cingulate cortex has been shown through multiple lines of evidence to be involved in self-referential thinking. Delta frequency waves are associated with reduced actual activity as they are increased during light sleep. Hence the results suggest that religious chanting suppresses thinking about the self. This is exactly what most meditation practices attempt to do. The results, then suggest that religious chanting is an effective contemplative practice in altering the brain activity to reduce self-referential thinking and peripheral nervous system activity to increase relaxation.

 

So, affect the brain with religious chanting.

 

“Mantras give the wandering mind a focal point. They produce a beat and a flow that is easy for the mind and body’s energy system to grasp a hold of. When the mind wants to wander out of the meditative state, the mantra helps bring it back.” – EOC

 

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

 

Gao, J., Leung, H. K., Wu, B., Skouras, S., & Sik, H. H. (2019). The neurophysiological correlates of religious chanting. Scientific reports, 9(1), 4262. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-40200-w

 

Abstract

Despite extensive research on various types of meditation, research on the neural correlates of religious chanting is in a nascent stage. Using multi-modal electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods, we illustrate that during religious chanting, the posterior cingulate cortex shows the largest decrease in eigenvector centrality, potentially due to regional endogenous generation of delta oscillations. Our data show that these functional effects are not due to peripheral cardiac or respiratory activity, nor due to implicit language processing. Finally, we suggest that the neurophysiological correlates of religious chanting are likely different from those of meditation and prayer, and would possibly induce distinctive psychotherapeutic effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414545/

 

Improve Feedback Learning with Focused Meditation

Improve Feedback Learning with Focused Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation is a powerful tool for the body and the mind; it can reduce stress and improve immune function. But can it also help us train our minds to learn faster from feedback or information acquired through past experiences?” – Jasmine Collier

 

Learning is fundamental to humans’ ability to survive and adapt in our environments. It is particularly essential in modern environments. Indeed, modern humans need to spend decades learning the knowledge and skills that are needed to be productive. Essential to the learning process is reacting to feedback from the consequences of actions. This is known as the “Law of Effect. Mindfulness is known to improve learning. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate how mindfulness training may improve the ability to respond to the feedback and learn.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation experience predicts negative reinforcement learning and is associated with attenuated FRN amplitude.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420441/), Knytl and Opitz recruited healthy adults and separated them into groups who were non-meditators, novice meditators, and experienced meditators. The meditators were practitioners of focused meditation. They performed a probablistic selection task while the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded. Event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded in response to the presentation of the symbols.

 

In the probablistic selection task the participants were asked to select between two symbols presented randomly on a computer screen. One symbol, if selected, would produce positive feedback (10 points). Whether that symbol produced the feedback did not occur on every occasion. There were different probabilities of feedback, 20%, 30%, 40%, 60%, 70%, 80%. In the 60% case feedback would occur 6 out of every 10 times the symbol was presented. The participants were not told which symbols would produce positive feedback. They had to discover it themselves.

 

They found that non-meditators were significantly more negatively biased while focused meditators were significantly more positively biased. The non-meditators were better at not responding on trials where there was no positive feedback symbol present while the focused meditators were better at responding on trials where there was a positive feedback symbol present. In addition, they found that the more years of focused meditation experience the larger the difference.

 

In the EEG, the focused meditators had the smallest feedback related negativity (FRN) which involves a greater negative going electrical response of the frontal lobes in the event related potential (ERP) that occurred about a quarter of a second after the stimulus on positive trials than on negative trials. This response is thought to signal reinforcement occurring in the brain systems. In addition, they found that the more years of meditation experience the larger the reduction in the FRN.

 

The study is complicated and the results difficult to interpret, but they suggest that focused meditation experience makes and individual more sensitive to positive reinforcement and less sensitive to negative reinforcement. This bias is reflected in both the behavioral and event related potential data. This suggests that the demonstrated ability of focused meditation training to improve attention ability improves the ability of the meditator to detect stimuli that produce positive reinforcement. This makes meditators better at learning the feedback signals provided by the environment.

 

So, improve feedback learning with focused meditation.

 

“Humans have been meditating for over 2000 years, but the neural mechanisms of this practice are still relatively unknown. These findings demonstrate that, on a deep level, meditators respond to feedback in a more even-handed way than non-meditators, which may help to explain some of the psychological benefits they experience from the practice.” – Paul Knytl

 

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

 

Knytl, P., & Opitz, B. (2018). Meditation experience predicts negative reinforcement learning and is associated with attenuated FRN amplitude. Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience, 19(2), 268–282. doi:10.3758/s13415-018-00665-0

 

Abstract

Focused attention meditation (FAM) practices are cognitive control exercises where meditators learn to maintain focus and attention in the face of distracting stimuli. Previous studies have shown that FAM is both activating and causing plastic changes to the mesolimbic dopamine system and some of its target structures, particularly the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and striatum. Feedback-based learning also depends on these systems and is known to be modulated by tonic dopamine levels. Capitalizing on previous findings that FAM practices seem to cause dopamine release, the present study shows that FAM experience predicts learning from negative feedback on a probabilistic selection task. Furthermore, meditators exhibited attenuated feedback-related negativity (FRN) as compared with nonmeditators and this effect scales with meditation experience. Given that reinforcement learning and FRN are modulated by dopamine levels, a possible explanation for our findings is that FAM practice causes persistent increases in tonic dopamine levels which scale with amount of practice, thus altering feedback processing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420441/