Improve Attention and the Brain Systems Underlying Attention with Meditation

Improve Attention and the Brain Systems Underlying Attention with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

the primary outcome of meditation may be to control attention and internal state in the face of the barrage of stimuli, negative and otherwise, that we experience everyday.” – Aaron D. Nitzkin

 

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. A common method to study the activity of the nervous system is to measure the electrical signal at the scalp above brain regions. Changes in this activity are measurable with mindfulness training.

 

One method to observe attentional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to specific stimuli. These are called event-related, or evoked, potentials or ERPs. The signal following a stimulus changes over time. The fluctuations of the signal after specific periods of time are thought to measure different aspects of the nervous system’s processing of the stimulus. The P3 response in the evoked potential (ERP) is a positive going electrical response occurring between a 2.5 to 5 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The P3 component is thought to reflect attentional processing.

 

In today’s Research News article “Focused attention meditation training modifies neural activity and attention: longitudinal EEG data in non-meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7304517/ ) Yoshida and colleagues recruited meditation-naïve college students and randomly assigned them to receive either focused meditation training or relaxation training, listening to classical music. The training occurred once a week for 30 minutes for 8 weeks. They also practiced meditation or relaxation at home for 10 minutes per day. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness. They also had brain activity measured with an electroencephalogram (EEG) before, during and after either a 5-minute meditation or relaxation and while performing an oddball task where they were asked to respond whenever a different tone the usual was presented. The evoked potentials to the tone presentations were recorded.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the relaxation group, the group that received focused meditation training had significantly faster reactions to the target stimuli during the oddball task. The evoked potentials to the oddball stimuli also demonstrated significantly larger P3 potentials in the meditation group. They also report that during meditation there was a significant increase in theta rhythm power in the EEG particularly in the frontal regions of the brain. They also found that only after 8 weeks of meditation training the greater the increase in theta power during meditation the smaller the increase in P3 magnitude during the oddball task.

 

These results suggest that meditation training produces an improvement in attention both behaviorally during the oddball task and also in the brain’s response to the stimuli. The results demonstrated that these changes occurred only after 8 weeks of meditation training and not after relaxation training. That mindfulness training improves attention and the P3 response in the evoked potential has been demonstrated previously.

 

Hence, meditation training in meditation-naïve college students improves attention both in the brain and in behavior. This improved attention should, although not investigated, produce improved performance in college academics. It remains for future research to investigate this hypothesis.

 

So, improve attention and the brain systems underlying attention with 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

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Yoshida, K., Takeda, K., Kasai, T., Makinae, S., Murakami, Y., Hasegawa, A., & Sakai, S. (2020). Focused attention meditation training modifies neural activity and attention: longitudinal EEG data in non-meditators. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 15(2), 215–224. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsaa020

 

Abstract

Focused attention meditation (FAM) is a basic meditation practice that cultivates attentional control and monitoring skills. Cross-sectional studies have highlighted high cognitive performance and discriminative neural activity in experienced meditators. However, a direct relationship between neural activity changes and improvement of attention caused by meditation training remains to be elucidated. To investigate this, we conducted a longitudinal study, which evaluated the results of electroencephalography (EEG) during three-stimulus oddball task, resting state and FAM before and after 8 weeks of FAM training in non-meditators. The FAM training group (n = 17) showed significantly higher P3 amplitude during the oddball task and shorter reaction time (RT) for target stimuli compared to that of the control group (n = 20). Furthermore, a significant negative correlation between F4-Oz theta band phase synchrony index (PSI) during FAM and P3 amplitude during the oddball task and a significant positive correlation between F4-Pz theta band PSI during FAM and P3 amplitude during the oddball task were observed. In contrast, these correlations were not observed in the control group. These findings provide direct evidence of the effectiveness of FAM training and contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the effects of meditation on brain activity and cognitive performance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7304517/

 

Meditation on Different States of Consciousness Produces Different Brain Activity

Meditation on Different States of Consciousness Produces Different Brain Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation is just self-directed neuroplasticity. In other words, you are directing the change of your brain by inwardly and consciously directing attention in a particular way. You’re using the mind to change the brain, like a child crafting a Playdough structure.” – Liam McClintock

 

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. How exactly mindfulness practices produce their benefits is unknown. It is known that meditation practice alters states of consciousness and alters brain activity.

 

It is possible to investigate the relationships between consciousness and brain activity. One way is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be 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 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. Changes in these brain activities can be compared during different forms of meditation with different conscious content.

 

In today’s Research News article “Large effects of brief meditation intervention on EEG spectra in meditation novices.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7649620/ ) Stapleton and colleagues recruited healthy meditation-naïve adults and had them attend a 3-day meditation training workshop where seated meditation to music was practiced 3 times per day. The participants were instructed to focus on different states (emotions, gratitude, surrendering, emotions, future events, oneness, energy, future intentions, and moving energy) during the meditations. During before, during, and after each meditation brain activity was recorded with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

 

They found that from the baseline to the end of the meditations there was a significant global increase in both Theta (4-8 hz.) and Gamma (35-45 hz.) rhythms in the EEG. These activities normally occur during information processing in the brain. They also found that different meditations produced different patterns of EEG activity. Delta activity was increased to the greatest extent by meditations on gratitude, elevated emotions, and energy. Theta activity was increased to the greatest extent by meditations on gratitude, elevated emotions, and future intention. Alpha activity was increased to the greatest extent by meditations on gratitude, oneness, and future intention. Beta activity was increased to the greatest extent by meditations on gratitude, future events, elevated emotions, and future intention. Finally, Gamma activity was increased to the greatest extent by meditations on gratitude, energy, and future intention.

 

These results suggest that different conscious content during meditation is reflected in differences in the activity of the brain in novice meditators. These understandings may be useful in identifying conscious content in real time during meditation. But these results need to be replicated in experienced meditators.

 

So, meditation on different states of consciousness produces different brain activity.

 

mindfulness . . . has come to describe a meditation-based practice whose aim is to increase one’s sense of being in the present, but it has also been used to describe a nonmeditative state in which subjects set aside their mental distractions to pay greater attention to the here and now.” – Alvin Powell

 

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

 

Stapleton, P., Dispenza, J., McGill, S., Sabot, D., Peach, M., & Raynor, D. (2020). Large effects of brief meditation intervention on EEG spectra in meditation novices. IBRO reports, 9, 290–301. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibror.2020.10.006

 

Abstract

This study investigated the impact of a brief meditation workshop on a sample of 223 novice meditators. Participants attended a three-day workshop comprising daily guided seated meditation sessions using music without vocals that focused on various emotional states and intentions (open focus). Based on the theory of integrative consciousness, it was hypothesized that altered states of consciousness would be experienced by participants during the meditation intervention as assessed using electroencephalogram (EEG). Brainwave power bands patterns were measured throughout the meditation training workshop, producing a total of 5616 EEG scans. Changes in conscious states were analysed using pre-meditation and post-meditation session measures of delta through to gamma oscillations. Results suggested the meditation intervention had large varying effects on EEG spectra (up to 50 % increase and 24 % decrease), and the speed of change from pre-meditation to post-meditation state of the EEG co-spectra was significant (with 0.76 probability of entering end-meditation state within the first minute). There was a main 5 % decrease in delta power (95 % HDI = [−0.07, −0.03]); a global increase in theta power of 29 % (95 % HDI = [0.27, 0.33]); a global increase of 16 % (95 % HDI = [0.13, 0.19]) in alpha power; a main effect of condition, with global beta power increasing by 17 % (95 % HDI = [0.15, 0.19]); and an 11 % increase (95 % HDI = [0.08, 0.14]) in gamma power from pre-meditation to end-meditation. Findings provided preliminary support for brief meditation in altering states of consciousness in novice meditators. Future clinical examination of meditation was recommended as an intervention for mental health conditions particularly associated with hippocampal impairments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7649620/

 

Unique Brain Activity Registers Internal Attentional States During Meditation

Unique Brain Activity Registers Internal Attentional States During Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Your brain is actually shaped by your thoughts and your behaviors. . . meditation can help boost attention and keep the brain sharp. . .  mindful breath awareness may improve attention and help curb impulsive behavior” – Grace Bullock

 

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. But there are various states of attention including meditation-related states: breath attention, mind wandering, and self-referential processing, and control states e.g. attention to feet and listening to ambient sounds. It is not known what changes occur in the brain during these five different modes and if they can be used to better discriminate the nature of attentional changes during meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Focus on the Breath: Brain Decoding Reveals Internal States of Attention During Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483757/ ) Weng and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditators (at least 5 years of experience) and non-meditators. They were given a series of tasks while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They were asked for 16-50 seconds to 1) pay attention to their breath, 2) let the mind wander, 3) think about past events, 4) pay attention to their feet, and 5) pay attention to ambient sounds. The 5 conditions were repeated multiple times in random orders. They then performed a 10-minute breath following meditation followed by a repeat of the premeditation tasks. Artificial intelligence was employed to determine unique neural activity associated with each of the 5 mental states for each participant.

 

They found unique individual brain activity patterns for each participant and could reliably distinguish different individual patterns for the 5 mental states. They then used these individualized patterns in an attempt to determine mental state during the breath focused meditation. They found that the individualized patterns identified for following the breath were present a greater percentage of time than the mind wandering or self-referential states when engaging in breath focused meditation. Further they found that the greater the amount of time for each participant in the breath following brain pattern the larger the rating by the participant of their engagement with breath following.

 

This was a proof of concept study. But it successfully demonstrated that unique individual patterns of brain activity can be identified for 5 mental states. These could be reliably differentiated. It also showed that these patterns could be used to identify breath following during breath following meditation. This suggests that this method may be used to identify mental states during ongoing meditation sessions. This could be a powerful research tool for future investigations of the mental states occurring during meditation.

 

So, unique brain activity registers internal attentional states during meditation.

 

Mindfulness training can help change patterns of brain activity because the synapses within these attentional networks can strengthen or weaken with use. So, join a mindful meditation class or download a mindful meditation app and train your brain to get out of the default mode network and be present!” – Mclean Bolton

 

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

Weng, H. Y., Lewis-Peacock, J. A., Hecht, F. M., Uncapher, M. R., Ziegler, D. A., Farb, N., Goldman, V., Skinner, S., Duncan, L. G., Chao, M. T., & Gazzaley, A. (2020). Focus on the Breath: Brain Decoding Reveals Internal States of Attention During Meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 336. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00336

Abstract

Meditation practices are often used to cultivate interoception or internally-oriented attention to bodily sensations, which may improve health via cognitive and emotional regulation of bodily signals. However, it remains unclear how meditation impacts internal attention (IA) states due to lack of measurement tools that can objectively assess mental states during meditation practice itself, and produce time estimates of internal focus at individual or group levels. To address these measurement gaps, we tested the feasibility of applying multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) to single-subject fMRI data to: (1) learn and recognize internal attentional states relevant for meditation during a directed IA task; and (2) decode or estimate the presence of those IA states during an independent meditation session. Within a mixed sample of experienced meditators and novice controls (N = 16), we first used MVPA to develop single-subject brain classifiers for five modes of attention during an IA task in which subjects were specifically instructed to engage in one of five states [i.e., meditation-related states: breath attention, mind wandering (MW), and self-referential processing, and control states: attention to feet and sounds]. Using standard cross-validation procedures, MVPA classifiers were trained in five of six IA blocks for each subject, and predictive accuracy was tested on the independent sixth block (iterated until all volumes were tested, N = 2,160). Across participants, all five IA states were significantly recognized well above chance (>41% vs. 20% chance). At the individual level, IA states were recognized in most participants (87.5%), suggesting that recognition of IA neural patterns may be generalizable for most participants, particularly experienced meditators. Next, for those who showed accurate IA neural patterns, the originally trained classifiers were applied to a separate meditation run (10-min) to make an inference about the percentage time engaged in each IA state (breath attention, MW, or self-referential processing). Preliminary group-level analyses demonstrated that during meditation practice, participants spent more time attending to breath compared to MW or self-referential processing. This paradigm established the feasibility of using MVPA classifiers to objectively assess mental states during meditation at the participant level, which holds promise for improved measurement of internal attention states cultivated by meditation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483757/

 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Procedure can Alter Meditation and its Effects on the Brain

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Procedure can Alter Meditation and its Effects on the Brain

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The nature of the high noise levels present during fMRI makes total elimination of imager noise perceived by subjects impractical at this time.” – Michael Ravicz

 

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. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology.

 

The premiere way of measuring brain size and function is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). But the recording of the MRI can be difficult for the participant as they are confined in a narrow tube for an extended period of time with very high noise levels. There are attempts to mitigate the effects of this recording environment but even at best it is noxious for the participant. It is not known how this environment of MRI recording may affect the results of studies of meditation effects on the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Does the MRI/fMRI Procedure Itself Confound the Results of Meditation Research? An Evaluation of Subjective and Neurophysiological Measures of TM Practitioners in a Simulated MRI Environment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198852/ ) Travis and colleagues recruited experienced meditators and recorded their brain activity with electroencephalogram during a single session while they had their eyes closed and then meditated for 7 minutes. This sequence was repeated in counterbalanced order for sitting, lying down in the quiet, and lying down in a simulated MRI tube with 110db recording of the noise sound level of an MRI machine. The participants then completed a questionnaire about the depth of their meditation and their subjective experiences.

 

They found that the participants rated their depth of meditation and experiences of pure consciousness significantly lower and interference and distraction/agitation significantly higher during the simulated MRI condition. The power in most frequency bands significantly decreased in the EEG from sitting to lying positions and further significantly decreased during the simulated MRI condition. In addition, during the simulated MRI condition, there was a significant increase in activation of the precuneus area of the brain, a major component of the default mode network.

 

These findings are interesting and important for the interpretation of meditation research employing MRI to investigate its effects on the brain. The results suggest that the conditions of MRI recording, including confinement and loud noise levels alters the nature of the meditation and the brain’s responses to the meditation. This environment appears to interfere with the depth of the meditation and inserts greater distractions producing agitation. The MRI environment also appears to decrease the power of various waveforms in the EEG and activate the default mode network of the brain.

 

This represents a problem for interpreting MRI data recorded during meditation. Of course, the effects of the MRI recording environment would be the same during different conditions. So, differences between MRI data recorded during meditation and during other mental states should not be due to the recording environment. In addition, the disruption of the meditation produced by the environment would likely make it more difficult to detect changes produced by meditation. So, the actual observed brain changes during meditation in the MRI environment may underestimate the true effects of meditation practice on the brain.

 

So, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) procedure can alter meditation and its effects on the brain.

 

claustrophobia is common in the world of MRI. It’s so common that asking questions about it is standard in the pre-appointment screening call. “Four out of ten patients that we call will mention something about claustrophobia,” – Desiree Rckovich

 

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

 

Travis, F., Nash, J., Parim, N., & Cohen, B. H. (2020). Does the MRI/fMRI Procedure Itself Confound the Results of Meditation Research? An Evaluation of Subjective and Neurophysiological Measures of TM Practitioners in a Simulated MRI Environment. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 728. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00728

 

Abstract

Early research into meditation, including Transcendental Meditation (TM), relied exclusively on EEG to measure brain activity during meditation practice. Since the advent of neural imaging, MRI, and later fMRI, have dominated this field. Unfortunately, the use of this technology rests on the questionable assumption that lying down in a confining tube while exposed to very loud sounds would not interfere with the meditation practice. The present study was designed to assess the effects of the fMRI procedure on both the subjective and neurophysiological responses of short and long-term TM practitioners. Twenty-three TM practitioners volunteered to participate in this study: 11 short-term meditators, averaging 2.2 years practice, and 12 long-term meditators, averaging 34.8 years. The repeated-measures design included two activities for each participant, eyes-closed rest, and TM practice, in each of three conditions: sitting quietly in an upright position (normal TM practice); lying quietly in a supine position; and lying, with earplugs, inside a simulated fMRI tube (simMRI), while exposed to 110 dB recordings of an actual fMRI machine. Subjective experiences were collected after each activity in each condition. Physiological arousal was recorded using skin conductance levels. Scalp EEG was averaged into eight frequency bands within frontal and parietal leads; eLORETA software was used to explore the 3-D cortical distribution of EEG sources. During the simMRI condition, participants reported having more shallow meditation experiences, and greater agitation/distraction. Skin conductance levels paralleled self-reports, decreasing least during the simMRI condition. Frontal and parietal power decreased from sitting to simMRI in the alpha2 through gamma bands. Parietal power was higher during rest compared to TM in the alpha1 through beta2 bands. Frontal and parietal alpha1 coherence were highest during the simMRI condition. The eLORETA analysis revealed that the default mode network was more active during TM when sitting compared to the simMRI condition. The responses to the supine condition were generally between sitting and simMRI, with some significant exceptions. In conclusion, these data indicate that the fMRI procedure itself (high dB noise; lying down) strongly influences subjective and neurophysiological responses during meditation practice, and may therefore confound the interpretation of results from fMRI studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198852/

Improve Attention and Memory with Closed-Loop Digital Meditation

Improve Attention and Memory with Closed-Loop Digital Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The good news is that its possible to train your attention and gain the associated benefits, and practicing mindfulness offers one of the most accessible and effective approaches.” – Deborah Schoeberlein David

 

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. One way to observe the effects of meditation is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Theta activity consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band and it thought to measure attention. Another method to observe attentional processing in the brain is to measure the changes in the electrical activity that occur in response to paying attention. 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 attentional processes.

 

In today’s Research News article “Closed-loop digital meditation improves sustained attention in young adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7534732/ ) Ziegler and colleagues recruited meditation-naïve young adults and randomly assigned them to a placebo control group or to receive 6 weeks of daily online breath following focused meditation training. Initially they meditated for 20 minutes but as they reported greater and greater ability to pay attention to their breath the duration of the meditation increased up to 30 minutes. The placebo control condition was engagement with an online app that was judged by participants to produce expectations equivalent to the meditation app for improvements in sustained attention and working memory. Three online aps were identified and self-selected by the participants of foreign language learning, Tai Chi practice, or logic games. The participants were measured before and after training for sustained attention, distraction filtering, working memory, and accuracy of working memory. They also recoded the electroencephalogram (EEG) during the sustained attention task and recorded the theta rhythm and the P300 evoked potentials to the attention stimuli.

 

They found that in comparison to the placebo group the meditation group had significant increases in sustained attention, distraction filtering, and working memory. In addition, they found that the greater the duration of the meditation practice achieved the greater the improvement in sustained attention. In the EEG they found that the meditation group had significant increases in attention-related EEG measures. In particular, they had increased frontal midline theta rhythm and earlier parietal P300 latencies in the evoked potentials.

 

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness practices produce improvements in attention and memory. An interesting and important difference between this research and prior research is that they employed a control condition that was demonstrated to produce the same degree of expectation in the participants for improvement in attention and memory. In other words. they controlled for participant expectancy, placebo, effects that were not controlled in the prior work. So, the improvements in attention and working memory were likely due to the meditation practice itself. Another interesting difference was that the present results were both in behavioral and brain activity measures. This demonstrates that the effects can be seen in objective, EEG and evoked potential data, and not just in behavioral responses that are more susceptible to bias.

 

So, improve attention and memory with closed-loop digital meditation.

 

mindful attention improves attention regulation, benefits physical and mental health, reduces stress, facilitates emotion regulation, and helps you remove those extra pounds!” – Gavin Khoury

 

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

 

Ziegler, D. A., Simon, A. J., Gallen, C. L., Skinner, S., Janowich, J. R., Volponi, J. J., Rolle, C. E., Mishra, J., Kornfield, J., Anguera, J. A., & Gazzaley, A. (2019). Closed-loop digital meditation improves sustained attention in young adults. Nature human behaviour, 3(7), 746–757. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0611-9

 

Abstract

Attention is a fundamental cognitive process that is critical for essentially all aspects of higher-order cognition and real-world activities. Younger generations have deeply embraced information technology and multitasking in their personal lives, school, and the workplace, creating myriad challenges to their attention. While improving sustained attention in healthy young adults would be beneficial, enhancing this ability has proven notoriously difficult in this age group. Here we show that six-weeks of engagement with a meditation-inspired, closed-loop software program (MediTrain) delivered on mobile devices led to gains in both sustained attention and working memory in healthy young adults (n = 22). These improvements were associated with positive changes in key neural signatures of attentional control (frontal theta inter-trial coherence and parietal P3b latency), as measured by electroencephalography. Our findings suggest the utility of delivering aspects of the ancient practice of focused-attention meditation in a modern, technology-based approach and its benefits on enhancing sustained attention.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7534732/

 

Become a Better Athlete with Mindfulness

Become a Better Athlete with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“athletes perform better when experiencing flow and that mindfulness meditation for athletes can help them experience flow. This is really good news for high-performance coaches and athletes.” – Ertheo

 

Athletic performance requires the harmony of mind and body. Excellence is in part physical and in part psychological. That is why an entire profession of Sports Psychology has developed. “In sport psychology, competitive athletes are taught psychological strategies to better cope with a number of demanding challenges related to psychological functioning.” They use a number of techniques to enhance performance including mindfulness training. It has been shown to improve attention and concentration and emotion regulation and reduces anxiety and worry and rumination, and the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, mindfulness training has been employed by athletes and even by entire teams to enhance their performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Enhances Endurance Performance and Executive Functions in Athletes: An Event-Related Potential Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7474752/ ) Nien and colleagues explored the effects of mindfulness training on college athletes. They recruited healthy college athletes who had no experience with mindfulness training and randomly assigned them to either receive mindfulness training or to a wait-list control condition. Mindfulness training consisted of 2 30-minute training sessions per week for 5 weeks and included mindful breathing, mindful meditation, body scanning, mindful yoga, and mindful walking. They were measured before and after the 5-week training period for athletic endurance, cognitive function (Stroop task), and mindfulness. The Stroop Task measures attention, response speed, and behavioral inhibition.

 

To measure the nervous systems processing of information, the electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and evoked potentials to the stimuli onsets were measured during the Stroop Task. They focused on the N2 response in the evoked potential which is a negative going electrical response in the EEG occurring between a 2.0 to 3.5 tenths of a second following the target stimulus presentation. The N2 component is thought to reflect attentional monitoring of conflict and inhibitory control.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the athletes who received mindfulness training had significant increases in mindfulness, athletic endurance, and attention and behavioral inhibition accuracies on the Stroop cognitive task. They also found that the mindfulness trained athletes had significantly lower N2 responses in the evoked potential.

 

These are interesting findings but conclusions must be tempered with the knowledge that the comparison condition was passive. This opens the possibility of alternative explanations such as participant expectancy, attention, or bias effects. Nevertheless, the results suggest that mindfulness training improves the athlete’s executive function and endurance. The results of both the Stroop Task and the N2 component of the evoked potential are compatible as each measures the ability to inhibit responses in the face of informational conflict.

 

The mechanisms by which mindfulness training has these effects was not explored in the present study. But previous research has demonstrated that mindfulness training improves executive function including behavioral inhibition. Additionally, previous research has demonstrated that mindfulness training improves the physiological and psychological responses to stress. These improved responses to stress may well explain the increased athletic endurance observed in the mindfulness training athletes as endurance measures the individual’s ability to maintain function under stress.

 

So, become a better athlete with mindfulness.

 

Focus and attention, body awareness and the ability to immerse yourself in the present moment – these are skills in both high-level athletic performance and mindfulness meditation.” – Dave Charny

 

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

 

Nien, J. T., Wu, C. H., Yang, K. T., Cho, Y. M., Chu, C. H., Chang, Y. K., & Zhou, C. (2020). Mindfulness Training Enhances Endurance Performance and Executive Functions in Athletes: An Event-Related Potential Study. Neural plasticity, 2020, 8213710. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/8213710

 

Abstract

Mindfulness interventions have been linked to improved sport performance and executive functions; however, few studies have explored the effects of mindfulness on sport performance and executive functions simultaneously. This study sought to examine whether a mindfulness training program would affect both the endurance performance and executive functions of athletes. In addition, event-related potentials (ERPs) associated with the Stroop task were assessed to investigate the potential electrophysiological activation associated with the mindfulness training. Applying a quasiexperimental design, forty-six university athletes were recruited and assigned into a five-week mindfulness training program or a waiting list control group. For each participant, the mindfulness level, endurance performance assessed by a graded exercise test, executive functions assessed via Stroop task, and N2 component of ERPs were measured prior to and following the 5-week intervention. After adjusting for the preintervention scores as a covariate, it was found that the postintervention mindfulness level, exhaustion time, and Stroop task accuracy scores, regardless of task condition, of the mindfulness group were higher than those of the control group. The mindfulness group also exhibited a smaller N2 amplitude than the control group. These results suggest that the five-week mindfulness program can enhance the mindfulness level, endurance performance, and multiple cognitive functions, including executive functions, of university athletes. Mindfulness training may also reduce conflict monitoring in neural processes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7474752/

 

Activate the Brain and Synchronize the Cerebral Hemispheres with Kriya Yoga

Activate the Brain and Synchronize the Cerebral Hemispheres with Kriya Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Kriya yoga in Sanskrit means “to move.” The yoga combines all the energy in the body of the mind and to increase the concentration and the awareness in the body. It helps in energizing all the parts of your body. The internal organs inside your body thyroid, spleen, liver, and pancreas, are energized which improve your overall health.” – Larissa Smith

 

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. There are a wide variety of different mindfulness training techniques. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is an ancient technique that involves cyclical breathing patterns that range from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating. How exactly SKY produces its benefits is unknown.

 

One way to observe the effects of mindfulness practices is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be 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 “High-Frequency Cerebral Activation and Interhemispheric Synchronization Following Sudarshan Kriya Yoga as Global Brain Rhythms: The State Effects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336945/) Bhaskar and colleagues recruited adult Sudarshan Kriya Yoga practitioners. They recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) for 5 minutes before and after a 1-hour Sudarshan Kriya Yoga practice.

 

They found that after Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) practice there was a significant increase in the spectral power of all EEG frequency bands. They also found that after SKY there was a significant increase in the synchronization of the electrical activity in the rwo cerebral hemispheres. These results indicate that a single session of SKY increases overall brain activity and interhemispheric synchronization.

 

These findings suggest that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) practice heightens neural activity in a synchronized fashion. This suggests that SKY practice improves physiological balance, alertness, and mental well-being. It remains for future research to determine whether these changes in brain activity occur in SKY naive participants and whether these changes are lasting or only occurring in the immediate aftermath of SKY practice.

 

So, activate the brain and synchronize the cerebral hemispheres with Kriya Yoga.

 

Kriya Yoga is universal in its benefits: it doesn’t depend on anything outside itself.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

 

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

 

Bhaskar, L., Tripathi, V., Kharya, C., Kotabagi, V., Bhatia, M., & Kochupillai, V. (2020). High-Frequency Cerebral Activation and Interhemispheric Synchronization Following Sudarshan Kriya Yoga as Global Brain Rhythms: The State Effects. International journal of yoga, 13(2), 130–136. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_25_19

 

Abstract

Context:

Respiration is known to modulate neuronal oscillations in the brain and is measured by electroencephalogram (EEG). Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a popular breathing process and is established for its significant effects on the various aspects of physiology and psychology.

Aims:

This study aimed to observe neuronal oscillations in multifrequency bands and interhemispheric synchronization following SKY.

Settings and Design:

This study employed before- and after-study design.

Subjects and Methods:

Forty healthy volunteers (average age 25.45 ± 5.75, 23 males and 17 females) participated in the study. Nineteen-channel EEG was recorded and analyzed for 5 min each: before and after SKY. Spectral power for delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma frequency band was calculated using Multi-taper Fast Fourier Transform (Chronux toolbox). The Asymmetry Index was calculated by subtracting the natural log of powers of left (L) hemisphere from the right® to show interhemispheric synchronization.

Statistical Analysis:

Paired t-test was used for statistical analysis.

Results:

Spectral power increased significantly in all frequency bands bilaterally in frontal, central, parietal, temporal, and occipital regions of the brain after long SKY. Electrical activity shifted from lower to higher frequency range with a significant rise in the gamma and beta powers following SKY. Asymmetry Index values tended toward 0 following SKY.

Conclusions:

A single session of SKY generates global brain rhythm dominantly with high-frequency cerebral activation and initiates appropriate interhemispheric synchronization in brain rhythms as state effects. This suggests that SKY leads to better attention, memory, and emotional and autonomic control along with enhanced cognitive functions, which finally improves physical and mental well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336945/

 

Improve Working Memory in Adolescents with Mindful Movement

Improve Working Memory in Adolescents with Mindful Movement

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness meditation causes structural changes in the brain. It actually alters connections between brain cells. That is how adults end up with an enlarged cortex. And that may explain why meditation improved memory in the teens.” – Alison Pearce Stevens

 

Humans have both an amazing capacity to remember and a tremendously limited capacity depending upon which phase of the memory process. Our long-term store of information is virtually unlimited. On the other hand, short-term memory is extremely limited. This is called our working memory and it can contain only about 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time. This fact of a limited working memory store shapes a great deal about how we think, summarize, and categorize our world.

 

Memory ability is so important to everyday human functioning that it is important to study ways to maintain or improve it. Short-term, working, memory can be improved. Mindfulness has been shown to improve working memory capacity. Yoga practice has also been shown to have improve memory and reduce the decline in memory ability that occurs with aging. In addition Tai Chi practice has also been shown to improve memory. These effects are well established in adults but have not been explored in adolescents. It is thus important to study the detailed effects of mindful movement practice on working memory ability in adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditative Movement Affects Working Memory Related to Neural Activity in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00931/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1332835_69_Psycho_20200519_arts_A), Kang and colleagues recruited healthy adolescents, aged 17-18 years, who were naïve to meditative or mindful movement practices. They were randomly assigned to either a relaxation control condition or to receive training in meditative movement. Relaxation and meditative movements were practiced for 9 minutes twice a day for 3 weeks.

 

Before and after training they were measured for working memory while simultaneously having their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded. They were presented with a sequence of audio and visual targets and had to recall the target presented a number of positions back in the series, the further back they could successfully go, the better the working memory.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the relaxation group, the group that performed meditative movements had a significantly greater improvement in working memory, being able to recall targets further back in the sequence. They also found for the meditative movement group but not the relaxation group that the better the working memory score the lower the power of the high beta frequency (30-40 hz. Waves per second) in the EEG over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

 

These results suggest that meditative movement practice improves working (short-term) memory and that this improvement was related to changes in the EEG. The high beta frequency in the EEG has been shown to be related to filtering irrelevant information in working memory and thereby to improve working memory. So, the EEG data are compatible with the memory data suggesting better brain processing of working memory underlay the better working memory.

 

The study did not have a follow-up beyond the time immediately after the 3-week training period. It would be important in future research to investigate the duration of the effect by having follow-up measurements at delayed intervals. Also, the control condition in the present study was sedentary while the meditative movement training was active. It would be important for future research to include an active control perhaps performing a non-meditative exercise.

 

Regardless, the study demonstrates that improved working memory results from meditative movement practice in adolescents as has previously been found for adults. The improvement in working memory is important particularly for adolescents who are in a very active learning period of their lives. Working memory is the foundation for all memory and as such improvement would be important for their academic learning. It remains to be seen if meditative movement improves scholastic performance.

 

So, improve working memory in adolescents with mindful movement.

 

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.” – About Memory

 

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

 

Kang H, An SC, Kim NO, Sung M, Kang Y, Lee US and Yang H-J (2020) Meditative Movement Affects Working Memory Related to Neural Activity in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front. Psychol. 11:931. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00931

 

Numerous studies have revealed that meditative movement changes brain activity and improves the cognitive function of adults. However, there is still insufficient data on whether meditative movement contributes to the cognitive function of adolescents whose brain is still under development. Therefore, this study aimed to uncover the effects of meditative movement on the cognitive performance and its relation with brain activity in adolescents. Forty healthy adolescent participants (mean age of 17∼18) were randomly allocated into two groups: meditative movement and control group. The meditative movement group was instructed to perform the meditative movement, twice a day for 9 min each, for a duration of 3 weeks. During the same time of the day, the control group was instructed to rest under the same condition. To measure changes in cognitive abilities, a dual n-back task was performed before and after the intervention and analyzed by repeated two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). During the task, electroencephalogram signals were collected to find the relation of brain activity with working memory performance and was analyzed by regression analysis. A repeated two-way ANOVA with Bonferroni correction showed that working memory performance was significantly increased by meditative movement compared with the retest effect. Based on regression analysis, the amplitude of high-beta rhythm in the F3 channel showed a significant correlation with dual n-back score in the experimental group after the intervention, while there was no correlation in the control group. Our results suggest that meditative movement improves the performance of working memory, which is related to brain activity in adolescents.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00931/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1332835_69_Psycho_20200519_arts_A

 

Meditation Produces Mental Emptiness by Lowering Phasic Relationships in the EEG

Meditation Produces Mental Emptiness by Lowering Phasic Relationships in the EEG

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation research explores how the brain works when we refrain from concentration, rumination and intentional thinking. Electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.” – ScienceDaily

 

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. A characterizing feature of meditation is that it can produce periods of thoughtless awareness also known as mental emptiness where thinking is minimized. Little is known, however, about the underlying brain activity during thoughtless awareness relative to cognitive processing, thinking.

 

One way to observe the effects of meditation is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be 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 “From thoughtless awareness to effortful cognition: alpha – theta cross-frequency dynamics in experienced meditators during meditation, rest and arithmetic.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096392/), Rodriguez-Larios and colleagues recruited adult, highly experienced, meditators and recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) while they were at rest, engaged in breath following focused meditation, and doing mental arithmetic (counting backward by 7. They analyzed the EEG signals for alpha and theta rhythms and investigated the phasic relationships between them.

 

They found that during meditation the phasic relationships between alpha and theta rhythms in the brain were at a minimum where they were at a maximum during mental arithmetic. Since during the cognitive task of mental arithmetic the phasic relationships were high, it appears that these phasic relationships between alpha and theta rhythms are associated with cognitive processes, thinking. The fact that they’re minimized during meditation suggests that during meditation cognition, thinking, is minimized. This suggests that awareness is occurring without thought; thoughtless awareness.

 

These results make sense in that the goal of breath following meditation is to relax the mind and focus it on simple sensory signals and thereby minimize thinking. Meditation focuses the mind on the present moment and the sensory experiences occurring in the moment. The deeper the focus, the less room there is for thought to occur. The present results indicate that this thoughtless awareness can be seen in the electrical activity of the brain during meditation.

 

So, meditation produces mental emptiness by lowering phasic relationships in the EEG.

 

A theta wave cycle lasts about as long as the human eye blinks, or about 4/10 of a second! They are also associated with deep meditation. . . Theta waves are associated with dreaming sleep, super learning, creativity, daydreaming, and deep meditation. And with emotional surges, self-reprogramming, and spiritual experiences.” – Mindvalley

 

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

 

Rodriguez-Larios, J., Faber, P., Achermann, P., Tei, S., & Alaerts, K. (2020). From thoughtless awareness to effortful cognition: alpha – theta cross-frequency dynamics in experienced meditators during meditation, rest and arithmetic. Scientific reports, 10(1), 5419. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62392-2

 

Abstract

Neural activity is known to oscillate within discrete frequency bands and the synchronization between these rhythms is hypothesized to underlie information integration in the brain. Since strict synchronization is only possible for harmonic frequencies, a recent theory proposes that the interaction between different brain rhythms is facilitated by transient harmonic frequency arrangements. In this line, it has been recently shown that the transient occurrence of 2:1 harmonic cross-frequency relationships between alpha and theta rhythms (i.e. falpha ≈ 12 Hz; ftheta ≈ 6 Hz) is enhanced during effortful cognition. In this study, we tested whether achieving a state of ‘mental emptiness’ during meditation is accompanied by a relative decrease in the occurrence of 2:1 harmonic cross-frequency relationships between alpha and theta rhythms. Continuous EEG recordings (19 electrodes) were obtained from 43 highly experienced meditators during meditation practice, rest and an arithmetic task. We show that the occurrence of transient alpha:theta 2:1 harmonic relationships increased linearly from a meditative to an active cognitive processing state (i.e. meditation < rest < arithmetic task). It is argued that transient EEG cross-frequency arrangements that prevent alpha:theta cross-frequency coupling could facilitate the experience of ‘mental emptiness’ by avoiding the interaction between the memory and executive components of cognition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096392/

 

Mindfulness is Associated in Improved Emotion Regulation with Mothers

Mindfulness is Associated in Improved Emotion Regulation with Mothers

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

With [Mindfulness Meditation] training or practice . .  we become more able to allow disturbing emotions and thoughts to pass through awareness. We develop the ability to NOT act or react to every emotion or thought we have.” – Timothy Pychyl

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness 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, mindfulness appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The majority of studies examining brain responses to emotional stimuli employ relatively artificial materials such as emotion laden pictures of scenes independent of the participant’s actual environment and are not related to the actual experiences of the participants. It is important to investigate how mindfulness affects the individual’s emotions and the brains responses to emotional stimuli related to the everyday experiences of the individual.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-related differences in neural response to own infant negative versus positive emotion contexts.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6969079/), Laurent and colleagues recruited mothers of 3-month old infants. The had them complete a measure of mindfulness that included observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-reacting, and non-judging facets. They collected videos of the mothers engaged with peekaboo with their infants (positive emotions) and holding the infant’s arms to their sides (negative emotions) and presented them while the mothers underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of their brains.

 

They found that the mothers’ showed greater activation of the brain in general to the positive (peekaboo) own-infant video than to the negative (arm restraint video). Of the facets of mindfulness, mother who were high in nonreactivity and non-judging had greater brain activations to the own-infant peekaboo video than the arm restraint video. These activations occurred in widespread areas of their brains.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that mothers who are mindful, especially with nonreactivity and non-judging, have greater brain activation to seeing positive own-infant scenes than to negative own-infant scenes. This suggests that mindfulness is related to increased responses to emotionally positive events in their real environments than to emotionally negative events. This may explain the improved moods of mindful people. Their brains are tuned to positivity.

 

So, mindfulness is associated in improved emotion regulation with mothers.

 

The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

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

 

Laurent, H. K., Wright, D., & Finnegan, M. (2018). Mindfulness-related differences in neural response to own infant negative versus positive emotion contexts. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 30, 70–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2018.01.002

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is thought to promote well-being by shaping the way people respond to challenging social-emotional situations. Current understanding of how this occurs at the neural level is based on studies of response to decontextualized emotion stimuli that may not adequately represent lived experiences. In this study, we tested relations between mothers’ dispositional mindfulness and neural responses to their own infant in different emotion-eliciting contexts. Mothers (n = 25) engaged with their 3-month-old infants in videorecorded tasks designed to elicit negative (arm restraint) or positive (peekaboo) emotion. During a functional MRI session, mothers were presented with 15-s clips from these recordings, and dispositional mindfulness scores were used to predict their neural responses to arm restraint > peekaboo videos. Mothers higher in nonreactivity showed relatively lower activation to their infants’ arm restraint compared to peekaboo videos in hypothesized regions—insula and dorsal prefrontal cortex—as well as non-hypothesized regions. Other mindfulness dimensions were associated with more limited areas of lower (nonjudgment) and higher (describing) activation in this contrast. Mothers who were higher in mindfulness generally activated more to the positive emotion context and less to the negative emotion context in perceptual and emotion processing areas, a pattern that may help to explain mindfulness-related differences in well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6969079/