Different Meditation Techniques Improve Well-Being Through Different Brain Systems

Different Meditation Techniques Improve Well-Being Through Different Brain Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

‘Meditation can alter the mechanism of your brain after some time.” – Perpetua Neo

 

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 structures and connectivity, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits, especially mindfulness.

 

There are, however, a wide variety of meditation practices and there has been extensive research into the impact of these different practices on the brain psychological well-being. The different practices can be classified as to whether they focus on present centered awareness (attention to present moment sensation and perception), meta-awareness (attention to consciousness), or non-reactive self-related processing (nonjudgmental attention to and acceptance of self-related perceptions). There is a need to summarize what has been learned about the psychological effects and brain activities related to these different meditation classifications.

 

In today’s Research News article “Classification of Mindfulness Meditation and Its Impact on Neural Measures in the Clinical Population.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.891004/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1885330_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20220614_arts_A ) Ngan and colleagues reviewed and summarized the published research literature on the effects of meditation techniques focusing on present moment attention, meta-awareness, or non-reactive self-related processing on brain systems and psychological well-being. They found 12 published research studies.

 

They report that the published research studies found that meditation focusing on present centered awareness was associated with neural activity in the brain’s salience network that is associated with identifying important aspects of the environment to pay attention to. They also found that meditation focusing on meta-awareness was associated with neural activity in the brain’s default mode network that is associated with self-related processing and mind wandering. Finally, they found that meditation focusing on meta-awareness was associated with neural activity in the brain’s default mode network interconnections with the executive network that is associated with high level thinking.

 

So, although all meditation focuses produce beneficial psychological effects, they may do so through different neural mechanisms.

 

it really matters what you practice—the observed brain changes were specific to different types of training and coincided with improvements in emotional and cognitive skills.” – Tania Singer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ngan STJ and Cheng PWC (2022) Classification of Mindfulness Meditation and Its Impact on Neural Measures in the Clinical Population. Front. Psychol. 13:891004. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.891004

 

Different forms of mindfulness meditation are increasingly integrated in the clinical practice in the last three decades. Previous studies have identified changes in the neurophysiology and neurochemistry of the brain resulting from different mindfulness meditation practices in the general population. However, research on neural correlates of different types of meditation, particularly on the clinical outcomes, is still very sparse. Therefore, the aim of this article is to review the neural impact of mindfulness meditation interventions on different mental disorders via the classification of main components of mindfulness meditation. The clearer classification of mindfulness meditation may inform future clinical practice and research directions.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.891004/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1885330_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20220614_arts_A

 

Meditation and Mind Wandering Alter Brain Network Activity Differently

Meditation and Mind Wandering Alter Brain Network Activity Differently

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“in addition to altering specific functional connectivity, meditation leads to reconfiguration of whole-brain network architecture.” – Shogo Kajimura

 

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 structures and connectivity, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits, especially mindfulness.

 

Meditation practice results in a shift in mental processing. It produces a reduction of mind wandering and self-referential thinking and an increase in attention and higher-level thinking. The neural system that underlie mind wandering is termed the Default Mode Network (DMN) and consists in a set of brain structures including medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate, lateral temporal cortex and the hippocampus. The neural system that underlies executive functions such as attention and higher-level thinking is termed the Central Executive Network (CEN) and includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and cingulate cortex. The salience network has been shown to direct attention to significant aspects of the environment. Hence the shift in thought process may well be associated with changes in the relationship of these systems.

 

In today’s Research News article “Spectral dynamic causal modeling of mindfulness, mind-wandering, and resting-state in the triple network using fMRI.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8893127/ ) Kim and colleagues recruited healthy adult males and had them pay attention mindfully or allow their minds to wander while having their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found that during mindfulness the central executive network had enhanced connectivity with the salience network through the default mode network. On the other hand, during mind wandering the default mode network had greater connectivity to the central executive network. This suggests that during mindfulness the neural systems enhanced attention to significant stimuli while during mind wandering the neural systems enhanced attention to internally generated thinking.

 

Hence, the brain’s network activity is different during different mind states.

 

meditation states in long-term practitioners induced highly specific connectivity patterns of fronto-parietal and medial frontal networks relative to rest. This observation generally indicates that the executive processes of attentional control and cognitive monitoring have a specific role in supporting brain states of meditation.” – Juliana Yordanova

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kim, H. C., & Lee, J. H. (2022). Spectral dynamic causal modeling of mindfulness, mind-wandering, and resting-state in the triple network using fMRI. Neuroreport, 33(5), 221–226. https://doi.org/10.1097/WNR.0000000000001772

 

Objective

Functional connectivity in intrinsic brain networks, namely, the triple network, which includes the salience network, default mode network (DMN) and central executive network (CEN), has been suggested as prominent, major networks involved in human cognition and mental state–mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state. Despite the established roles of functional connections within and between intrinsic networks, there has been limited research on the effective connectivity of mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state using the triple network, as well as on their direct comparisons.

Methods

We employed spectral dynamic causal modeling to compare effective connectivity patterns across mindfulness (i.e. attention focused on physical sensations of breathing), mind-wandering (i.e. connecting thoughts) and resting-state (i.e. relaxing while remaining calm and awake) conditions using functional MRI data of healthy subjects who underwent ambulatory training by practicing mindfulness and mind-wandering (N = 59).

Results

When comparing mindfulness and mindwandering conditions, our analysis results revealed that salience network and CEN interacted depending on mindfulness or mind-wandering. When mindfulness or mind-wandering was compared to resting-state, mindfulness increased the effective connectivity from the left CEN to salience network through DMN, whereas mindwandering increased the effective connectivity from the DMN to right CEN.

Conclusion

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine possible differences in effective connectivity patterns among mindfulness, mind-wandering and resting-state using the triple network. We believe that our findings will provide deeper insights into the neural substrates of mindfulness compared to mind-wandering and resting-state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8893127/

 

Improve the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease with Long-Term Tai Chi Practice

Improve the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease with Long-Term Tai Chi Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai chi training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls.” – Fuzhong Li

 

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an incurable progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The condition is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are around seven million people worldwide living with PD. Its physical symptoms include resting tremor, slow movements, muscle rigidity, problems with posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, and slurring of speech. Balance is a particular problem as it effects mobility and increases the likelihood of falls, restricting activity and reducing quality of life.

 

There are no cures for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) or even treatments to slow its progression. There are only treatments that can produce symptomatic relief. So, there is a need to discover new and different treatments. Mindfulness training has been found to improve the psychological symptoms and the quality of life with PD patients.  In addition, combinations of mindfulness and exercise such as Tai Chi and yoga practices have been shown to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. The mechanisms of  how Tai Chi practice improves the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are not known.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mechanisms of motor symptom improvement by long-term Tai Chi training in Parkinson’s disease patients.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8819852/ ) Li and colleagues recruited early-stage Parkinson’s Disease patients and randomly assigned them to 1 year of no treatment, brisk walking, or Tai Chi practice. They were measured at baseline, 6 months, and 1 year for Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, balance, timed up and go, and gait analysis. They also had blood drawn and analyzed for inflammatory cytokines and protein metabolites. In addition, they had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found that in comparison with baseline, no treatment, and brisk walking, Tai Chi practice produced significant increases in balance and significant decreases in step width at both 6 and 12 months. In comparison to no treatment Tai Chi practice produced significant decreases in Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, timed up and go, and blood cytokine levels and a significant increase in amino acid metabolism. In addition, improvements in Parkinson’s Disease symptoms were associated with increased connectivity in the brain Default Mode Network, increased amino acid metabolism, and decreased blood cytokine levels.

 

The results suggest that Tai Chi practice over a prolonged period improves the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and is superior to brisk walking in doing so. The results also suggest that Tai Chi practice may produce these improvements by altering physiological processes including the brain, inflammatory system, and protein metabolism.

 

So, improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease with long-term Tai Chi practice.

 

The incorporation of Tai Chi in the daily life of Parkinson’s disease patients allowed them to stay functionally and physically active. Improvement of physical parameters indicated that Tai Chi had the potential to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.” – Allison Rodriquez

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Li, G., Huang, P., Cui, S. S., Tan, Y. Y., He, Y. C., Shen, X., Jiang, Q. Y., Huang, P., He, G. Y., Li, B. Y., Li, Y. X., Xu, J., Wang, Z., & Chen, S. D. (2022). Mechanisms of motor symptom improvement by long-term Tai Chi training in Parkinson’s disease patients. Translational neurodegeneration, 11(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40035-022-00280-7

 

Abstract

Background

Tai Chi has been shown to improve motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease (PD), but its long-term effects and the related mechanisms remain to be elucidated. In this study, we investigated the effects of long-term Tai Chi training on motor symptoms in PD and the underlying mechanisms.

Methods

Ninety-five early-stage PD patients were enrolled and randomly divided into Tai Chi (n = 32), brisk walking (n = 31) and no-exercise (n = 32) groups. At baseline, 6 months and 12 months during one-year intervention, all participants underwent motor symptom evaluation by Berg balance scale (BBS), Unified PD rating-scale (UPDRS), Timed Up and Go test (TUG) and 3D gait analysis, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), plasma cytokine and metabolomics analysis, and blood Huntingtin interaction protein 2 (HIP2) mRNA level analysis. Longitudinal self-changes were calculated using repeated measures ANOVA. GEE (generalized estimating equations) was used to assess factors associated with the longitudinal data of rating scales. Switch rates were used for fMRI analysis. False discovery rate correction was used for multiple correction.

Results

Participants in the Tai Chi group had better performance in BBS, UPDRS, TUG and step width. Besides, Tai Chi was advantageous over brisk walking in improving BBS and step width. The improved BBS was correlated with enhanced visual network function and downregulation of interleukin-1β. The improvements in UPDRS were associated with enhanced default mode network function, decreased L-malic acid and 3-phosphoglyceric acid, and increased adenosine and HIP2 mRNA levels. In addition, arginine biosynthesis, urea cycle, tricarboxylic acid cycle and beta oxidation of very-long-chain fatty acids were also improved by Tai Chi training.

Conclusions

Long-term Tai Chi training improves motor function, especially gait and balance, in PD. The underlying mechanisms may include enhanced brain network function, reduced inflammation, improved amino acid metabolism, energy metabolism and neurotransmitter metabolism, and decreased vulnerability to dopaminergic degeneration.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8819852/

 

Improve Depression by Changing the Brain with Mindfulness

Improve Depression by Changing the Brain with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is just as effective as medication in preventing depression relapse among adults with a history of recurrent depression, and in reducing depressive symptoms among those with active depression.” – Deborah Yip

 

Clinically diagnosed depression is the most common mental illness, affecting over 6% of the population. Major depression can be quite debilitating. Depression can be difficult to treat and is usually treated with anti-depressive medication. But, of patients treated initially with drugs only about a third attained remission of the depression. After repeated and varied treatments including drugs, therapy, exercise etc. only about two thirds of patients attained remission. But drugs often have troubling side effects and can lose effectiveness over time. In addition, many patients who achieve remission have relapses and recurrences of the depression. Even after remission some symptoms of depression may still be present (residual symptoms).

 

Being depressed and not responding to treatment or relapsing is a terribly difficult situation. The patients are suffering, and nothing appears to work to relieve their intense depression. Suicide becomes a real possibility. So, it is imperative that other treatments be identified that can relieve the suffering. Mindfulness training has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and its recurrence and even in the cases where drugs fail.

 

The most used mindfulness technique for the treatment of depression is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting and walking meditation and body scan, and cognitive therapy to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. MBCT has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant drugs in relieving the symptoms of depression and preventing depression reoccurrence and relapse. In addition, it appears to be effective as either a supplement to or a replacement for these drugs. It is unclear, however if MBCT is also effective in treating late life depression in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Regulates Brain Connectivity in Patients With Late-Life Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8882841/ ) Li and colleagues recruited older adults (over 60 years of age) with late life depression and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly sessions of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with daily home practice or treatment as usual. They were measured before and after training and 3 months later for depression, anxiety, and cognitive function, they also underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the treatment as usual group, those that received Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) had significantly lower depression after training and at the 3 month follow-up. In addition, the greater the amount of home meditation practice the greater the reductions in depression. They also found that after treatment there was a significant increase in functional connectivity between the amygdala and cerebral cortex. In addition, the greater the increase in functional connectivity, the greater the reductions in depression.

 

These findings suggest that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a safe and effective treatment for late life depression. But they also suggest that changes in the connectivity between brain areas may underlie the improvements in depression.

 

So, change the brain to improve late life depression with mindfulness.

 

MBCT (combined with antidepressants or delivered alongside antidepressant tapering/discontinuation) is comparable to maintenance antidepressants alone in preventing subsequent relapse.” – Oxford Mindfulness Centre

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Li, H., Yan, W., Wang, Q., Liu, L., Lin, X., Zhu, X., Su, S., Sun, W., Sui, M., Bao, Y., Lu, L., Deng, J., & Sun, X. (2022). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Regulates Brain Connectivity in Patients With Late-Life Depression. Frontiers in psychiatry, 13, 841461. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.841461

 

Abstract

Late-life depression (LLD) is an important public health problem among the aging population. Recent studies found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can effectively alleviate depressive symptoms in major depressive disorder. The present study explored the clinical effect and potential neuroimaging mechanism of MBCT in the treatment of LLD. We enrolled 60 participants with LLD in an 8-week, randomized, controlled trial (ChiCTR1800017725). Patients were randomized to the treatment-as-usual (TAU) group or a MBCT+TAU group. The Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD) and Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA) were used to evaluate symptoms. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure changes in resting-state functional connectivity and structural connectivity. We also measured the relationship between changes in brain connectivity and improvements in clinical symptoms. HAMD total scores in the MBCT+TAU group were significantly lower than in the TAU group after 8 weeks of treatment (p < 0.001) and at the end of the 3-month follow-up (p < 0.001). The increase in functional connections between the amygdala and middle frontal gyrus (MFG) correlated with decreases in HAMA and HAMD scores in the MBCT+TAU group. Diffusion tensor imaging analyses showed that fractional anisotropy of the MFG-amygdala significantly increased in the MBCT+TAU group after 8-week treatment compared with the TAU group. Our study suggested that MBCT improves depression and anxiety symptoms that are associated with LLD. MBCT strengthened functional and structural connections between the amygdala and MFG, and this increase in communication correlated with improvements in clinical symptoms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8882841/

 

Spirituality May Alter the Brain to Protect Against Major Depression

Spirituality May Alter the Brain to Protect Against Major Depression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality or religion may protect against major depression by thickening the brain cortex and counteracting the cortical thinning that would normally occur with major depression.” – Lisa Miller

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

One way that spirituality can have its effects on the individual 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 area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. So, religion and spirituality may be associated with changes in the nervous system associated with better mental health.

 

In today’s Research News article “Altruism and “love of neighbor” offer neuroanatomical protection against depression. Psychiatry research.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8672211/ ) Miller and colleagues reanalyzed longitudinal data obtained from individuals at risk for major depression and matched normal participants. At 30 and 35 years of age the participants brains were scanned with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the participants completed measures of major depressive disorder, level of depression and spirituality including measures of altruism, love thy neighbor as self, interconnectedness, contemplative practice, and commitment to religion/spirituality.

 

They found that the low risk of depression group had significantly greater cortical thickness in the Ventral Frontotemporal Network (VFTN), in comparison to the high-risk group. The VFTN had been previously shown to be associated with spiritual experience. They also found that in the at-risk for major depression group the greater the cortical thickness in the VFTN the lower levels of depression and the lower the risk of developing major depressive disorder. Across all participants, the higher the spirituality measures of altruism and love thy neighbor as self the greater the cortical thickness in the VFTN. In addition, in the high-risk group, the higher the levels of the spirituality measure of love thy neighbor as self the lower the levels of depression and the lower the risk of developing major depressive disorder.

 

The results demonstrate that the thickness of the Ventral Frontotemporal Network (VFTN) is associated with lower levels of depression and risk of major depressive disorder. In addition, thee results suggest that for people with a high risk of developing major depressive disorder spirituality particularly in the of altruism and love thy neighbor as self categories is associated with protection of the cortical areas from deterioration and this in turn is associated with lower depression and risk of major depressive disorder.

 

These results suggest that spirituality is associated protection from depression by protecting the brain particularly in people at high risk of developing major depressive disorder. These are correlative results, so it is not possible to determine causation. Future research needs to determine if promotion of spirituality, perhaps by training in contemplative practices, might produce neuroplastic changes in the brain and protect against the development of major depressive disorder.

 

So, spirituality may alter the brain to protect against major depression.

 

there is neurobiological basis of spirituality and depression risk. It is unlikely to be harmful, and may very well help to steer the religious depressed patient to more spiritual contemplation, and the non-religious one to more meditation and reflection.” – Emily Deans

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Hao, X., McClintock, C. H., Pan, L., Svob, C., & Weissman, M. M. (2021). Altruism and “love of neighbor” offer neuroanatomical protection against depression. Psychiatry research. Neuroimaging, 315, 111326. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2021.111326

 

Abstract

We prospectively investigate protective benefits against depression of cortical thickness across nine regions of a Ventral Frontotemporal Network (VFTN), previously associated with spiritual experience. Seventy-two participants at high and low risk for depression (Mean age 41 years; 22–63 years; 40 high risk, 32 low risk) were drawn from a three-generation, thirty-eight year study. FreeSurfer estimated cortical thickness over anatomical MRIs of the brain (Year 30) for each of the nine ROIs. Depression (MDD with SAD-L; symptoms with PHQ; Years 30 and 38) and spirituality (self-report on five phenotypes; Year 35), respectively, were associated with the weighted average of nine regions of interest. VFTN thickness was: 1) positively associated (p<0.01) with two of five spiritual phenotypes, altruism and love of neighbor, interconnectedness at a trend level, but neither commitment nor practice, 2) inversely associated with a diagnosis of MDD (SADS-L Year 30, for any MDD in the past ten years), and 3) prospectively neuroanatomically protective against depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 Year 38) for those at high familial risk.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8672211/

 

Protect the Brain from Dementia-Related Deterioration with Meditation

Protect the Brain from Dementia-Related Deterioration with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the group who performed meditation and yoga at least two hours per week had less atrophy in parts of the brain and better brain connectivity than the control group.

This finding gives them hope that the practice of meditation and yoga may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.” – Alissa Sauer

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation on Structural Changes of the Brain in Patients With Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8633496/ ) Dwivedi and colleagues recruited patients between the ages of 45 and 70 years of age who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or probable Alzheimer’s disease. They were assigned to usual care or to receive 6 months of daily 30-minutes sessions of either meditation practice or non-meditation focused task. Before and after the 6-month intervention they underwent detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessment and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control groups the meditation group had significantly higher cortical thickness and gray matter volume in the left caudal and rostral middle frontal areas and significantly higher gray matter volume in left lateral occipital, right inferior parietal, and right superior frontal cortices and significantly lower cortical thickness and gray matter volume in the entorhinal cortex and posterior parts of the brain. On the subcortical level they found increased volume in the right thalamus and the hippocampus. There were no significant differences between groups in clinical and neuropsychological measures.

 

The results suggest that 6-months of meditation practice protects the brain from deterioration in patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or probable Alzheimer’s disease. This suggests that meditation may help to prevent the cognitive decline that occurs with these diseases. It is unfortunate, though, that no significant differences were found in the clinical and neuropsychological measures. The scores, however, did not appear to change significantly between baseline and the follow up assessments. So, there simply may not have been enough time for cognitive decline to be detectable in the patients. Regardless, it is clear that meditation has neuroprotective effects in patients showing early signs of dementia.

 

So, protect the brain from dementia-related deterioration with meditation.

 

“ indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. Results showed that those who practiced meditation saw major changes in the biological markers that would put them at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease by the end of the study, with the same participants reporting improvements in cognitive function, sleep, mood, and quality of life.” – Kim Innes

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Dwivedi, M., Dubey, N., Pansari, A. J., Bapi, R. S., Das, M., Guha, M., Banerjee, R., Pramanick, G., Basu, J., & Ghosh, A. (2021). Effects of Meditation on Structural Changes of the Brain in Patients With Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 15, 728993. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2021.728993

 

Abstract

Previous cross-sectional studies reported positive effects of meditation on the brain areas related to attention and executive function in the healthy elderly population. Effects of long-term regular meditation in persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease dementia (AD) have rarely been studied. In this study, we explored changes in cortical thickness and gray matter volume in meditation-naïve persons with MCI or mild AD after long-term meditation intervention. MCI or mild AD patients underwent detailed clinical and neuropsychological assessment and were assigned into meditation or non-meditation groups. High resolution T1-weighted magnetic resonance images (MRI) were acquired at baseline and after 6 months. Longitudinal symmetrized percentage changes (SPC) in cortical thickness and gray matter volume were estimated. Left caudal middle frontal, left rostral middle frontal, left superior parietal, right lateral orbitofrontal, and right superior frontal cortices showed changes in both cortical thickness and gray matter volume; the left paracentral cortex showed changes in cortical thickness; the left lateral occipital, left superior frontal, left banks of the superior temporal sulcus (bankssts), and left medial orbitofrontal cortices showed changes in gray matter volume. All these areas exhibited significantly higher SPC values in meditators as compared to non-meditators. Conversely, the left lateral occipital, and right posterior cingulate cortices showed significantly lower SPC values for cortical thickness in the meditators. In hippocampal subfields analysis, we observed significantly higher SPC in gray matter volume of the left CA1, molecular layer HP, and CA3 with a trend for increased gray matter volume in most other areas. No significant changes were found for the hippocampal subfields in the right hemisphere. Analysis of the subcortical structures revealed significantly increased volume in the right thalamus in the meditation group. The results of the study point out that long-term meditation practice in persons with MCI or mild AD leads to salutary changes in cortical thickness and gray matter volumes. Most of these changes were observed in the brain areas related to executive control and memory that are prominently at risk in neurodegenerative diseases.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8633496/

 

Change the Brain to Increase Sustained Attention with Meditation

Change the Brain to Increase Sustained Attention with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“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

 

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 structures and connectivity, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits, especially mindfulness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Advanced Meditation Alters Resting-State Brain Network Connectivity Correlating With Improved Mindfulness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.745344/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A ) Vishnubhotla and colleagues recruited experienced meditators participating in an 8-day silent residential meditation retreat and a control group who were not participating in the retreat. They were measured before and after the retreat for anxiety, depression, mindfulness, joy, vitality, and resilience and had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), at rest and also during focused meditation. They examined the interconnectivity between the default mode network (DMN), salience network (SN), frontoparietal network (FPN), and dorsal attention network (DAN) of the brain.

 

They found that in comparison to pre-retreat and the control group following the meditation retreat during focused meditation there was a significant reduction in the functional connectivity between the salience network and the default mode network and also between the default mode network, the dorsal attention network, and the frontoparietal network. In addition, they found that after the retreat the greater the increase in the connectivity within the salience network the greater the increase in mindfulness.

 

The salience network has been shown to direct attention to significant aspects of the environment, dorsal attention network has been shown to be involved in sustained attention, and the frontoparietal network has been shown to be involved in high level thinking, executive function, and also sustained attention while the default mode network has been shown to be involved in self-referential thinking and mind wandering. The reduced functional connectivity between the default mode network and the other 3 suggests that self-referential thinking and mind wandering are less likely to affect the attentional responses and the ability to sustain attention. Hence the results suggest that meditation practice improves the ability to sustain attention in the face of the brains tendency to wander and this becomes stronger after a meditation retreat. These brain network changes appear to parallel the experiential aspects of meditation.

 

So, change the brain to increase sustained attention with meditation.

 

The practice [meditation] appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” – Aloce Walton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Vishnubhotla RV, Radhakrishnan R, Kveraga K, Deardorff R, Ram C, Pawale D, Wu Y-C, Renschler J, Subramaniam B and Sadhasivam S (2021) Advanced Meditation Alters Resting-State Brain Network Connectivity Correlating With Improved Mindfulness. Front. Psychol. 12:745344. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.745344

 

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of an intensive 8-day Samyama meditation program on the brain functional connectivity using resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI).

Methods: Thirteen Samyama program participants (meditators) and 4 controls underwent fMRI brain scans before and after the 8-day residential meditation program. Subjects underwent fMRI with a blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) contrast at rest and during focused breathing. Changes in network connectivity before and after Samyama program were evaluated. In addition, validated psychological metrics were correlated with changes in functional connectivity.

Results: Meditators showed significantly increased network connectivity between the salience network (SN) and default mode network (DMN) after the Samyama program (p < 0.01). Increased connectivity within the SN correlated with an improvement in self-reported mindfulness scores (p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Samyama, an intensive silent meditation program, favorably increased the resting-state functional connectivity between the salience and default mode networks. During focused breath watching, meditators had lower intra-network connectivity in specific networks. Furthermore, increased intra-network connectivity correlated with improved self-reported mindfulness after Samyama.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.745344/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1778822_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211123_arts_A

 

Increase Brain Grey Matter with Mindfulness

Increase Brain Grey Matter with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditating can give you the brain of a 25-year-old. Too bad it can’t also give you the body of one.” – Melanie Curtain

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. The nervous system changes in response to how it is used and how it is stimulated in a process called neuroplasticity. Highly used areas grow in size, metabolism, and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure and activity of the brain. The research has been accumulating and there is a need to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness related changes in grey matter: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8500886/ ) Pernet and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research on the effects of mindfulness practices on the amount of grey matter in the brain and brain structures.

 

They identified 25 published research studies that included a total of 1406 participants. They report that the published research found that meditation practice produced an enlargement of the insular cortex. There was also increased functional connectivity between the insular cortex and the cingulate cortex and the paracingulate gyrus. They note that there was great variation in the studies in terms of other structures showing increases in size and connectivity but little commonality. The studies, however, very greatly in procedure, meditation practice and experience, participant types, and numbers, etc. So, they recommend that future studies be more standardized and with larger numbers of participants.

 

With this heterogeneity of studies, finding that the insular cortex is expanded in most highlights its importance in meditation effects on the brain. The insular cortex is a highly connected structure of the brain that is so interconnected with multiple other brain areas that it has been thought of as a hub. It has been implicated in interoception, multimodal sensory processing, autonomic control, perceptual self-awareness, and emotional guidance of social behavior. This makes sense as meditation practice involves the perception of the internal state derived from multiple sensory experiences and, of course, self-awareness. The research findings suggest that meditation produces neuroplastic changes in the brain that are reflective of the mental states occurring in meditation. This, in turn, likely makes the practitioner more sensitive to these mental states.

 

So, increase brain grey matter with mindfulness.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

mindfulness meditation induces gray matter plasticity, suggesting that structural changes in ventral PCC—a key hub associated with self-awareness, emotion, cognition, and aging—may have important implications for protecting against mood-related disorders and aging-related cognitive declines.” – Rongxiang Tang,

 

Study Summary

 

Pernet, C. R., Belov, N., Delorme, A., & Zammit, A. (2021). Mindfulness related changes in grey matter: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain imaging and behavior, 15(5), 2720–2730. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-021-00453-4

 

Abstract

Knowing target regions undergoing strfuncti changes caused by behavioural interventions is paramount in evaluating the effectiveness of such practices. Here, using a systematic review approach, we identified 25 peer-reviewed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies demonstrating grey matter changes related to mindfulness meditation. An activation likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis (n = 16) revealed the right anterior ventral insula as the only significant region with consistent effect across studies, whilst an additional functional connectivity analysis indicates that both left and right insulae, and the anterior cingulate gyrus with adjacent paracingulate gyri should also be considered in future studies. Statistical meta-analyses suggest medium to strong effect sizes from Cohen’s d ~ 0.8 in the right insula to ~ 1 using maxima across the whole brain. The systematic review revealed design issues with selection, information, attrition and confirmation biases, in addition to weak statistical power. In conclusion, our analyses show that mindfulness meditation practice does induce grey matter changes but also that improvements in methodology are needed to establish mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8500886/

Improve Neuropsychological Disorders with Yoga

Improve Neuropsychological Disorders with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“yoga might be considered as an effective adjuvant for the patients with various neurological disorders including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, headache, myelopathy, neuropathies.” – A.Mooventhan

 

Mindfulness training and yoga practices have been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. They have 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 has accumulated a large amount of research on the effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of a variety of physical and mental issues. Hence, it would be useful to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Therapeutic role of yoga in neuropsychological disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8546763/ ) Nourollahimoghadam and colleagues review and summarize the published research regarding the effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of a variety of neuropsychological disorders.

 

They report that the published research found that yoga practice produced significant improvements in physical illnesses including migraine headaches, Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, and neuropathy. Yoga practice also produced significant improvements in psychological well-being including anxiety, stress, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, somatoform disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and burnout. They further report that yoga may produce its beneficial effects by altering the chemistry, electrical activity, structures, and connectivity within the brain.

 

Hence Yoga practice appears to have a myriad of positive physical and psychological benefits. The authors, however, point to weaknesses in the research including small sample sizes, short-term follow-up, confounding variables, and lack of appropriate controls. So, more and better controlled studies are needed to verify the benefits of yoga practice. Hence, the present state of knowledge supports the engagement in yoga practice to advance the physical and mental well-being of both ill and healthy individuals.

 

So, improve neuropsychological disorders with yoga.

 

Yoga can be a helpful practice of self-care for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions (such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, Lyme’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease).” – Mary Hilliker

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Nourollahimoghadam, E., Gorji, S., Gorji, A., & Khaleghi Ghadiri, M. (2021). Therapeutic role of yoga in neuropsychological disorders. World journal of psychiatry, 11(10), 754–773. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v11.i10.754

 

Abstract

Yoga is considered a widely-used approach for health conservation and can be adopted as a treatment modality for a plethora of medical conditions, including neurological and psychological disorders. Hence, we reviewed relevant articles entailing various neurological and psychological disorders and gathered data on how yoga exerts positive impacts on patients with a diverse range of disorders, including its modulatory effects on brain bioelectrical activities, neurotransmitters, and synaptic plasticity. The role of yoga practice as an element of the treatment of several neuropsychological diseases was evaluated based on these findings.

Core Tip: A multitude of beneficial effects of yoga practice and the underlying mechanisms of action have been reported and point out its role as an influential element in the integrative therapy of various neuropsychological disorders. In the planning of further investigations, studies should be designed to achieve more accuracy and precision in the heterogeneous field of yoga practices and potential fields of application.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8546763/

 

Focused Meditation Changes Brain Activity Differently Then Open Monitoring Meditation

Focused Meditation Changes Brain Activity Differently Then Open Monitoring Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

It’s like asking a sport expert ‘what does sport do to your body’. The expert would say, do you mean swimming or horse-riding? You can imagine mental training being as complex.” – Tanya

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. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, often the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of their origin.

 

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 Magnetoencephalography (MEG). It measures the magnetic fields associate with the brain’s electrical activity. This produces a mapping of structures that are active moment to moment. Whether these different meditation types produce different patterns of activity in the brain has not been extensively studied.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mining the Mind: Linear Discriminant Analysis of MEG Source Reconstruction Time Series Supports Dynamic Changes in Deep Brain Regions During Meditation Sessions.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8556220/ ) Calvetti and colleagues recruited 2 Buddhist monks who were highly experienced meditators and recorded their brain activity with Magnetoencephalography (MEG) over 6-minute periods while at rest, during focused attention meditation, and during open monitoring meditation.

 

They found that different brain area activities occurred during the two types of meditation particularly in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex and insular cortex. They also found differences in the activities of core structures in the limbic system including the amygdala, accumbens, putamen, thalamus, and caudate.

 

That the two meditation styles produce different brain activity patterns is not surprising as they differ considerably in cognitive contents, particularly the involvement in attentional processes. The structures involved, however, are interesting as they are in general associated with emotional processing (limbic system and cortical areas) and motor movements (Caudate and Putamen). During neither meditation style are there either high emotions or motor movements. So, there is no clear reason why these structures should differ between focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. It should be kept in mind that the participants are unusual in the amount of practice and the number of years of practice and do not represent the general meditation population.

 

It is clear, however, that focused meditation changes brain activity differently than open monitoring meditation in highly experienced meditators.

 

Many meditation techniques are available today. Contrary to common belief there are distinct differences between techniques, such as the effort involved, their impact on the brain, and whether or not they result in verifiable benefits.” – Transcendental Meditation

 

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

 

Calvetti, D., Johnson, B., Pascarella, A., Pitolli, F., Somersalo, E., & Vantaggi, B. (2021). Mining the Mind: Linear Discriminant Analysis of MEG Source Reconstruction Time Series Supports Dynamic Changes in Deep Brain Regions During Meditation Sessions. Brain topography, 34(6), 840–862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10548-021-00874-w

 

Abstract

Meditation practices have been claimed to have a positive effect on the regulation of mood and emotions for quite some time by practitioners, and in recent times there has been a sustained effort to provide a more precise description of the influence of meditation on the human brain. Longitudinal studies have reported morphological changes in cortical thickness and volume in selected brain regions due to meditation practice, which is interpreted as an evidence its effectiveness beyond the subjective self reporting. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) or electroencephalography to quantify the changes in brain activity during meditation practice represents a challenge, as no clear hypothesis about the spatial or temporal pattern of such changes is available to date. In this article we consider MEG data collected during meditation sessions of experienced Buddhist monks practicing focused attention (Samatha) and open monitoring (Vipassana) meditation, contrasted by resting state with eyes closed. The MEG data are first mapped to time series of brain activity averaged over brain regions corresponding to a standard Destrieux brain atlas. Next, by bootstrapping and spectral analysis, the data are mapped to matrices representing random samples of power spectral densities in α, β, γ, and θ frequency bands. We use linear discriminant analysis to demonstrate that the samples corresponding to different meditative or resting states contain enough fingerprints of the brain state to allow a separation between different states, and we identify the brain regions that appear to contribute to the separation. Our findings suggest that the cingulate cortex, insular cortex and some of the internal structures, most notably the accumbens, the caudate and the putamen nuclei, the thalamus and the amygdalae stand out as separating regions, which seems to correlate well with earlier findings based on longitudinal studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8556220/