Improve Brain Systems Underlying Sustained Attention in Sixth Graders with Mindfulness

Improve Brain Systems Underlying Sustained Attention in Sixth Graders with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“research suggests that mindfulness meditation can increase awareness of our thoughts, or meta-cognitive awareness, as well as regulate emotion, enhance attention and reduce stress. These changes can also be detected in the brain.” – B. Grace Bullock

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This is particularly evident during the elementary school years. Mindfulness training in school has been shown to have very positive effects. These include improvements in the academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve attentional ability which is fundamental to success in all aspects of academic performance.

 

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. Hence, it is important to further study the impact of mindfulness training on the development of attentional ability and associated brain mechanisms in elementary school children.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness training preserves sustained attention and resting state anticorrelation between default-mode network and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: A randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7670646/ ) Bauer and colleagues recruited 6th grade students and randomly assigned them to receive 45 minute 4 times per week for 8 weeks mindfulness or computer coding training. They were measured before and after training for sustained attention with a 15-minute go-no-go task and had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found in comparison to baseline and the computer coding group that the mindfulness training produced a significant improvement in sustained attention (Go accuracy) while the computer coding group had a significant decrease in accuracy. The brain scans revealed an anticorrelation between the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain and the Central Executive Network (CEN), such that as one becomes active the other becomes less active.

This anticorrelation was related to baseline sustained attention, with better sustained attention correlated with greater anticorrelation. They also found that after mindfulness training the anticorrelation was maintained while it decreased in the computer coding group. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in sustained attention after mindfulness training, the greater the increase in the anticorrelation while this was not true for the compute coding group.

 

The Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain is a set of interconnected brain structures that is thought to be involved in mind wandering, thoughts not related to the task at hand, while the Central Executive Network (CEN) of the brain is a set of interconnected brain structures that is thought to be involved in high level thinking and attention to the task at hand. The anticorrelation between the two systems indicates that as the brain system underlying attention becomes stronger the brain system underlying mind wandering becomes weaker and vice versa. The strengthening of the anticorrelation indicates better neural processing ability by segregating mind wandering from attention, resulting in better sustained attention.

 

The results suggest that mindfulness training in 6th graders improves sustained attention by improving the brain systems underlying sustained attention with the greater the improvement in attention the greater the increase in the anticorrelation. These results indicate how mindfulness training may improve attention in these children. They suggest that mindfulness training improves neural processing which in turn improves the children’s attentional ability. Although not investigated, improvement in attention should result in better academic performance.

 

So, improve brain systems underlying sustained attention in sixth graders with mindfulness.

 

a brief 10-min guided mindfulness meditation instruction period can improve executive attentional control even in naïve, inexperienced meditators.” – Catherine Norris

 

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

 

Bauer, C., Rozenkrantz, L., Caballero, C., Nieto-Castanon, A., Scherer, E., West, M. R., Mrazek, M., Phillips, D. T., Gabrieli, J., & Whitfield-Gabrieli, S. (2020). Mindfulness training preserves sustained attention and resting state anticorrelation between default-mode network and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: A randomized controlled trial. Human brain mapping, 41(18), 5356–5369. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.25197

 

Abstract

Mindfulness training can enhance cognitive control, but the neural mechanisms underlying such enhancement in children are unknown. Here, we conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with sixth graders (mean age 11.76 years) to examine the impact of 8 weeks of school‐based mindfulness training, relative to coding training as an active control, on sustained attention and associated resting‐state functional brain connectivity. At baseline, better performance on a sustained‐attention task correlated with greater anticorrelation between the default mode network (DMN) and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a key node of the central executive network. Following the interventions, children in the mindfulness group preserved their sustained‐attention performance (i.e., fewer lapses of attention) and preserved DMN–DLPFC anticorrelation compared to children in the active control group, who exhibited declines in both sustained attention and DMN–DLPFC anticorrelation. Further, change in sustained‐attention performance correlated with change in DMN–DLPFC anticorrelation only within the mindfulness group. These findings provide the first causal link between mindfulness training and both sustained attention and associated neural plasticity. Administered as a part of sixth graders’ school schedule, this RCT supports the beneficial effects of school‐based mindfulness training on cognitive control.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7670646/

 

Improve Attention with Short-Term Loving Kindness Meditation

Improve Attention with Short-Term Loving Kindness Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physiological, 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.

 

One understudied meditation technique is Loving Kindness Meditation. It is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. Although Loving Kindness Meditation has been practiced for centuries, it has received very little scientific research attention. As important as attention is, it’s surprising that little is known about the short-term effects of Loving Kindness Meditation on attention.

 

In today’s Research News article “Short-Term Effects of Meditation on Sustained Attention as Measured by fNIRS.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7564228/ ) Izzetoglu and colleagues recruited healthy non-meditating college students. During the one session study the participants had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) sensors placed on their foreheads. “fNIRS is an optics-based brain imaging modality which can measure relative changes in oxygenated (HbO2) and deoxygenated (Hb) hemoglobin using light in the near infrared range (650–950 nm)”. It is thought to measure blood flow from the prefrontal cortex which is involved in high level thinking.

 

The participants were then measured for sustained attention by performing in order the Stroop Color task, the Stroop word task, and then the Stroop Color Word task. These measurements were followed by a guided 22-minute Loving Kindness Meditation practice. After meditation the three sustained attention (Stroop) tasks were repeated. In the color Stroop test names of colors were presented in colors different from the word, e.g. the word RED appears in a blue color. The participants are asked to report the word (naming) or the color of the word ignoring the meaning of the word itself (inhibition) or switch back and forth (Executive function).

 

They found that in comparison to per-meditation, after Loving Kindness Meditation practice there was a significant increase in the speed of responding on the Stroop tasks and reduction in pulse pressure and systolic blood pressure. The fNIRS measure during the Stroop task suggested that after meditation there was a significant increase in blood flow to the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex and area thought to be involved in attentional focus.

 

The study was very short term and there was no control comparison group. So, the results must be interpreted carefully. Nevertheless, they suggest that the immediate effects of Loving Kindness Meditation practice is to improve attentional focus reflected in behavioral performance, physiological relaxation, and brain activity. These short term effects of meditation are compatible with the observed long term effects of Loving Kindness Meditation. This suggests that the long-term effects of the meditation on the physiology and behavior occur due to an accumulation of short-term impacts.

 

So, improve attention with short-term Loving Kindness Meditation.

 

meditation training helps people do better at focusing for a long time on a task that requires them to distinguish small differences between things they see.” – Science Daily

 

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

 

Izzetoglu, M., Shewokis, P. A., Tsai, K., Dantoin, P., Sparango, K., & Min, K. (2020). Short-Term Effects of Meditation on Sustained Attention as Measured by fNIRS. Brain sciences, 10(9), 608. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10090608

 

Abstract

Cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, processing time, perception, and reasoning can be augmented using some type of intervention. Within the broad range of conventional and unconventional intervention methods used in cognitive enhancement, meditation is one of those that is safe, widely practiced by many since ancient times, and has been shown to reduce stress and improve psychological health and cognitive functioning. Various neuroimaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) have shown functional and structural changes due to meditation in different types of meditation practices and on various groups of meditators. Recently, a few studies on meditation have used functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study the effects of meditation on cerebral hemodynamics. In this study, we examined the short-term effects of loving-kindness (LK) meditation on sustained attention using behavioral performance measures, physiological outcomes, and cognitive activity as measured by fNIRS in first-time meditators during Stroop color word task (SCWT) performance. Our results indicated that behavioral outcomes, assessed mainly on response time (RT) during SCWT performance, showed a significant decrease after meditation. As expected, physiological measures, primarily pulse pressure (PP) measured after meditation dropped significantly as compared to the before meditation measurement. For the hemodynamic measures of oxygenated-hemoglobin (HbO2), deoxygenated-hemoglobin (Hb), and total-hemoglobin (HbT), our findings show significant differences in SCWT performance before and after meditation. Our results suggest that LK meditation can result in improvements in cognitive, physiological, and behavioral outcomes of first-time meditators after a short-term session.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7564228/

 

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindfulness can enhance our ability to remember this new, less-fearful reaction, and break the anxiety habit.” It’s a tool that interrupts those old, fear-inducing memories, and creates new, less threatening associations in the mind.” – Nate Klemp

 

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 nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/ ) Sevinc and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to receive weekly 2-hour sessions of either stress management education or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) along with 40-minutes of daily home practice. The stress management education consisted of discussion of sources of stress and light exercise. MBSR consisted of discussion, meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They were measured before and after training for perceived stress, mindfulness, and anxiety.

 

All participants underwent classical fear conditioning with 2 different light colors presented just prior to an irritating shock to the finger and a third color light not followed by shock. The conditioning was then extinguished for one light color but not the other by repeated presentations of the light without shock. After training the participants underwent brain scanning focused on the subfields of the hippocampus with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The size of the hippocampal subfields was measured along with the connectivity between the hippocampus and other brain areas while the participants were shown the different colored lights used in the fear conditioning.

 

They found that after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) there was an increase in the volume of the hippocampal subfield of the subiculum. They also found a decrease in the connectivity of the hippocampus with the occipital cortex during presentation of the extinguished fear conditioning lights. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in volume of the subiculum, the greater the decrease in anxiety levels after MBSR.

 

The subiculum has been implicated in memory consolidation and retrieval. So, the increased volume detected after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) suggests that MBSR improves the memory process. Indeed, mindfulness training has previously been shown to improve memory processes.  The decrease in hippocampal connectivity during extinction recall after MBSR training suggests that the individual may be better able to ignore previously associated fear stimuli. This could well underlie a reduction in anxiety by not responding to fear stimuli that are no longer associated with frightening circumstances. This may be a mechanism that, at least in part, underlies the ability of mindfulness training to improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless, the results suggest that mindfulness training alters the brain in such a way to reduce anxiety.

 

So, change the brain to reduce anxiety with mindfulness.

 

“In mindfulness practice . . . you have an opportunity—the mental time and space, if you will—to see more elements of the story, a richer picture. “You may see more clearly as you anticipate a difficult encounter what the underlying emotion is that’s triggered and how it’s showing up in your body.” – Barry Boyce

 

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

 

Sevinc, G., Greenberg, J., Hölzel, B. K., Gard, T., Calahan, T., Brunsch, V., Hashmi, J. A., Vangel, M., Orr, S. P., Milad, M. R., & Lazar, S. W. (2020). Hippocampal circuits underlie improvements in self-reported anxiety following mindfulness training. Brain and behavior, 10(9), e01766. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1766

 

Abstract

Introduction

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. We recently demonstrated increased connectivity in hippocampal circuits during the contextual retrieval of extinction memory following mindfulness training.

Methods

Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields following mindfulness training in a randomized controlled longitudinal study using a two‐day fear‐conditioning and extinction protocol.

Results

We demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training.

Conclusions

The results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training may foster resilience.

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation has successfully been applied to cultivate skills in self‐regulation of emotion, as it employs the unbiased present moment awareness of experience. This heightened attention to and awareness of sensory experience has been postulated to create an optimal therapeutic exposure condition and thereby improve extinction learning. Here, we examine the role of structural changes in hippocampal subfields and further demonstrate an association between mindfulness training‐related increases in subiculum and decreased hippocampal connectivity to lateral occipital regions during contextual retrieval of extinguished fear. Further, we demonstrate an association between decreased connectivity and decreases in self‐reported anxiety following mindfulness training. These results highlight the role of the subiculum in gating interactions with contextual stimuli during memory retrieval and, also, the mechanisms through which mindfulness training fosters resilience.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507558/

 

Change the Brain with Mindfulness Apps

Change the Brain with Mindfulness Apps

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Rather than treating the usage of smartphones and mindfulness as oxymorons, we should consider ways to use our smartphones as a tool to aid our mindfulness practices.” – Courtney Ackerman

 

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 and increasing resilience in the face of 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 vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with busy employee schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, apps for smartphones have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of these apps and their ability to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Impact of App-Delivered Mindfulness Meditation on Functional Connectivity and Self-Reported Mindfulness Among Health Profession Trainees.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7543678/ ) Smith and colleagues recruited surgery residents and physicians assistant students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to practice mindfulness meditation for 12 minutes per day for 8 weeks  guided by the “10% Happier” smartphone app. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness with the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire and had their brains scanned with a resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control conditions that the mindfulness app group had a significantly higher Describe facet of mindfulness. They report that the greater the amount of app practice, the greater the increase in the Describe facet of mindfulness. The brain scans revealed that using the mindfulness app resulted in changes in the connectivity of a number of systems within the brain. They found that there was increased connectivity between the Central Executive Network and the Nucleus Accumbens and also between the Default Mode Network and the Salience Network. In addition, the greater the Describe mindfulness facet and the greater the amount of practice the greater the increase in these connectivities.

 

These networks are very important for the functioning of the brain. The Central Executive Network is involved in high level thinking, the Default Mode Network is involved in mind wandering and self-referential thinking, and the Salience Network is involved in attentional processing. The increased connectivity observed with the systems after using the mindfulness app suggests that the app was successful in increasing mindfulness which in turn improved the processing of important neural systems, effectively improving the brain.

 

So, change the brain with mindfulness Apps.

 

meditation, which changes the brain for the better, is a very specific technique rooted in age old philosophies. How meditation apps work on the brain has been debated, but a recent study . . .  shows that mindfulness changes cells in the brain.” – Sophia Quaglia

 

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

 

Smith, J. L., Allen, J. W., Haack, C., Wehrmeyer, K., Alden, K., Lund, M. B., & Mascaro, J. S. (2020). The Impact of App-Delivered Mindfulness Meditation on Functional Connectivity and Self-Reported Mindfulness Among Health Profession Trainees. Mindfulness, 1–15. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01502-7

 

Abstract

Objectives

Previous research indicates that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and depression and enhances well-being. We examined the impact of app-delivered mindfulness meditation on resting state functional MRI (fMRI) connectivity among physician assistant (PA) students and surgery residents.

Methods

PA students and residents were randomized to receive a popular meditation app or to wait-list control group. Before and after the 8-week meditation period, we acquired fMRI scans of participants’ resting state, and participants completed a self-report measure of mindfulness. We used a 2 × 2, within- and between-group factorial design and leveraged a whole-brain connectome approach to examine changes in within- and between-network connectivity across the entire brain, and to examine whether changes in connectivity were associated with app use or to changes in self-reported mindfulness.

Results

Meditation practitioners exhibited significantly stronger connectivity between the frontoparietal network and the left and right nucleus accumbens and between the default mode (DMN) and salience networks, among other regions. Mindfulness practice time was correlated with increased connectivity between the lateral parietal cortex and the supramarginal gyrus, which were also positively correlated with increased scores on the “Describing” subscale of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire between baseline and post-meditation. These findings are consistent with previous research indicating that mindfulness-based interventions alter functional connectivity within the DMN and between the DMN and other networks both during meditation and at rest, as well as increased connectivity in systems important for emotion and reward.

Conclusions

Recent commentaries call for healthcare provider and trainee wellness programs that are sustainable and preventive in nature rather than reactive; these data indicate that even brief sessions of app-delivered mindfulness practice are associated with functional connectivity changes in a dose-dependent manner.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7543678/

 

Change the Brain for Greater Happiness with Meditation

Change the Brain for Greater Happiness with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Rajyoga meditation induces grey matter volume changes in regions that process reward and happiness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528075/ ) Babu and colleagues recruited participants who practiced Rajyoga meditation and a group of non-meditators matched for age, gender, and handedness. Rajyoga meditation is an eyes-open focused meditation practice focusing on a point of light. They completed a measure of happiness and had their brains scanned with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the Rajyoga meditators were significantly happier than the non-meditators and that the greater the number of hours of practice the greater the levels of happiness. The MRI scans revealed that the Rajyoga meditators had significantly great gray matter volume in the superior frontal gyrus, inferior orbitofrontal cortex, and precuneus. They also found that the greater the gray matter volume in the superior frontal gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex the greater the levels of reported happiness.

 

The results of the present study need to be interpreted with caution as the groups were determined by whether they engaged in meditation or not. It is possible that people who choose to meditate are significantly different and have significantly different brains than those who do not. Nevertheless, the results suggest that Rajyoga meditators are happier and have greater amounts of brain matter in specific regions of the brain than non-meditators and that these changes are correlated with happiness. The brain areas with greater volume in the meditators are thought to process information regarding rewards and happiness. So, it is hypothesized that the meditation alters these brain regions that results in greater happiness.

 

So, change the brain for greater happiness with meditation.

 

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

 

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

 

Babu, M., Kadavigere, R., Koteshwara, P., Sathian, B., & Rai, K. S. (2020). Rajyoga meditation induces grey matter volume changes in regions that process reward and happiness. Scientific reports, 10(1), 16177. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73221-x

 

Abstract

Studies provide evidence that practicing meditation enhances neural plasticity in reward processing areas of brain. No studies till date, provide evidence of such changes in Rajyoga meditation (RM) practitioners. The present study aimed to identify grey matter volume (GMV) changes in reward processing areas of brain and its association with happiness scores in RM practitioners compared to non-meditators. Structural MRI of selected participants matched for age, gender and handedness (n = 40/group) were analyzed using voxel-based morphometric method and Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ) scores were correlated. Significant increase in OHQ happiness scores were observed in RM practitioners compared to non-meditators. Whereas, a trend towards significance was observed in more experienced RM practitioners, on correlating OHQ scores with hours of meditation experience. Additionally, in RM practitioners, higher GMV were observed in reward processing centers—right superior frontal gyrus, left inferior orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and bilateral precuneus. Multiple regression analysis showed significant association between OHQ scores of RM practitioners and reward processing regions right superior frontal gyrus, left middle OFC, right insula and left anterior cingulate cortex. Further, with increasing hours of RM practice, a significant positive association was observed in bilateral ventral pallidum. These findings indicate that RM practice enhances GMV in reward processing regions associated with happiness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528075/

 

Meditation Changes the Brain Differently in Adolescents

Meditation Changes the Brain Differently in Adolescents

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The benefits of meditation are many with few, if any, drawbacks. If your teen is struggling, it’d be worth it to give it a try.” – Tyler Jacobson

 

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. Its positive effects are so widespread that it is difficult to find any other treatment of any kind with such broad beneficial effects on everything from thinking to mood and happiness to severe mental and physical illnesses. This raises the question of how mindfulness training could produce such widespread and varied benefits. One possibility is that mindfulness practice results in beneficial changes in the nervous system.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. The brains of adolescents are different from fully mature adult brains. They are dynamically growing and changing. It is unclear how mindfulness affects their maturing brains.

 

In today’s Research News article “Gray Matter Changes in Adolescents Participating in a Meditation Training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7456888/ ) Yuan and colleagues recruited adolescents aged 14 to 19 years and provided them with a 12 week training in mindfulness meditation. They and a control sample of adolescents underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of their brains before and after training.

 

They found that after training there was a significant reduction in the volume of gray matter in the left thalamus, left putamen, and left posterior insula. There was no significant influence of age on the decreased volumes. Also, there were no significant increases in gray matter volume were found anywhere in the adolescents’ brains.

 

These results are very surprising. In adults, mindfulness training has been repeatedly shown to increase gray matter volume, not decrease it. The insula, in particular, has been shown to increase in volume after mindfulness training in adults. The insula is thought to underlie awareness of the internal state of the body. Since, mindfulness training usually increases this awareness, the increase in insula volume makes sense, but that it would decrease in volume in the adolescents does not.

 

During adolescents the brain is actively growing and changing. It is possible that mindfulness training affects the growing brain differently than after maturation in adulthood. This suggests that mindfulness may have different effects in adolescents than in adults. But this has not been shown to be the case. In fact, mindfulness training appears to have the same effects in adolescents as in adults. More research is needed to further investigate this phenomenon.

 

So, it would appear that meditation changes the brain differently in adolescents.

 

It is well-documented that mindfulness helps to relieve depression and anxiety in adults.  A small but growing body of research shows that it may also improve adolescent resilience to stress through improved cognitive performance and emotional regulation.” – Malka Main

 

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

 

Justin P. Yuan, Colm G. Connolly, Eva Henje, Leo P. Sugrue, Tony T. Yang, Duan Xu, Olga Tymofiyeva. Gray Matter Changes in Adolescents Participating in a Meditation Training. Front Hum Neurosci. 2020; 14: 319. Published online 2020 Aug 14. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00319

 

Abstract

Meditation has shown to benefit a wide range of conditions and symptoms, but the neural mechanisms underlying the practice remain unclear. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have investigated the structural brain changes due to the practice by examining volume, density, or cortical thickness changes. However, these studies have focused on adults; meditation’s structural effects on the adolescent brain remain understudied. In this study, we investigated how meditation training affects the structure of the adolescent brain by scanning a group of 38 adolescents (16.48 ± 1.29 years) before and after participating in a 12-week meditation training. Subjects underwent Training for Awareness, Resilience, and Action (TARA), a program that mainly incorporates elements from mindfulness meditation and yoga-based practices. A subset of the adolescents also received an additional control scan 12 weeks before TARA. We conducted voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to assess gray matter volume changes pre- to post-training and during the control period. Subjects showed significant gray matter (GM) volume decreases in the left posterior insula and to a lesser extent in the left thalamus and left putamen after meditation training. There were no significant changes during the control period. Our results support previous findings that meditation affects regions associated with physical and emotional awareness. However, our results are different from previous morphometric studies in which meditation was associated with structural increases. We posit that this discrepancy may be due to the differences between the adolescent brain and the adult brain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7456888/

 

Increase White Matter in the Brains of Aging Women with Tai Chi

Increase White Matter in the Brains of Aging Women with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“studies have shown tai chi’s association with improved cognition and neuroplasticity. This has led the scientific community to suggest tai chi may be of useful treating physical and psychological disorders, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and depression.” – Sara Alvarado

 

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 abilities, 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. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation,  yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityTai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive function, memory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the effects of Tai Chi training on the brains of older adults.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Training Evokes Significant Changes in Brain White Matter Network in Older Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151065/) Yue and colleagues recruited elderly women (average age of 63 years) and who had been routinely performing (90 minutes at least 5 times per week for at least 6 years in groups) either Tai Chi or daily walking. They were measured for mental ability, working memory, and cognitive ability. In addition, their brains were scanned with Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).

 

They found that in comparison to the walking group, the brains of the Tai Chi group had a greater volume of white matter indicating that their brains could transfer information effectively both locally and globally. They also found that the Tai Chi group had significantly better working memory performance than the walking group and that greater the volume of white matter in their brains the better their working memories. This was true for both working memory speed and accuracy.

 

A strength of the present study is that there was an active control group, walking, that was, like Tai Chi, performed in a group and was a moderate exercise. So, the results can be interpreted as due to the performance of Tai Chi itself and not to nonspecific factors such as socialization and exercise. The weaknesses in the study included the fact that only women were studied, there was no random assignment to groups, and that there was no manipulation of Tai Chi or walking practice. The participants self-selected which exercise to participate in. This opens up the possibility that there may have been systematic differences between the groups.

 

The results suggest that routine Tai Chi practice improves the brain’s ability to transfer information around the nervous system in elderly women. This may protect that individuals from the inevitable deterioration of the brain with aging and its associated decline in cognitive ability. The relationship between white matter and working memory is evidence for that protection against cognitive decline. These results support previous findings that mindfulness practices can protect the individual from age related brain deterioration and cognitive decline.

 

So, increase white matter in the brains of aging women with Tai Chi.

 

A comparison of the effects of regular sessions of tai chi, walking, and social discussion, has found tai chi was associated with the biggest gains in brain volume and improved cognition.” – 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

 

Yue, C., Zou, L., Mei, J., Moore, D., Herold, F., Müller, P., Yu, Q., Liu, Y., Lin, J., Tao, Y., Loprinzi, P., & Zhang, Z. (2020). Tai Chi Training Evokes Significant Changes in Brain White Matter Network in Older Women. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(1), 57. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8010057

 

Abstract

Background: Cognitive decline is age relevant and it can start as early as middle age. The decline becomes more obvious among older adults, which is highly associated with increased risk of developing dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease). White matter damage was found to be related to cognitive decline through aging. The purpose of the current study was to compare the effects of Tai Chi (TC) versus walking on the brain white matter network among Chinese elderly women. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted where 42 healthy elderly women were included. Tai Chi practitioners (20 females, average age: 62.9 ± 2.38 years, education level 9.05 ± 1.8 years) and the matched walking participants (22 females, average age: 63.27 ± 3.58 years, educational level: 8.86 ± 2.74 years) underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) scans. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and graph theory were employed to study the data, construct the white matter matrix, and compare the brain network attributes between the two groups. Results: Results from graph-based analyses showed that the small-world attributes were higher for the TC group than for the walking group (p < 0.05, Cohen’s d = 1.534). Some effects were significant (p < 0.001) with very large effect sizes. Meanwhile, the aggregation coefficient and local efficiency attributes were also higher for the TC group than for the walking group (p > 0.05). However, no significant difference was found between the two groups in node attributes and edge analysis. Conclusion: Regular TC training is more conducive to optimize the brain functioning and networking of the elderly. The results of the current study help to identify the mechanisms underlying the cognitive protective effects of TC.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151065/

 

Yoga Changes the Brain to Improve Body Awareness, Attention, and Present Moment Awareness

Yoga Changes the Brain to Improve Body Awareness, Attention, and Present Moment Awareness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Similar to the effects of meditation, yoga is a neurological vacation – but it also awakens parts of the brain that are typically inactive during normal day-to-day activity. . . The mind becomes deeply intertwined with the body and the two become one – opening up the flow of communication.” – Morgan Garza

 

The practice of yoga has many benefits for the individual’s physical and psychological health. Yoga has diverse effects because it is itself diverse having components of exercise, mindfulness meditation, and spirituality. So, yoga nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. As a result, yoga practice would be expected to produce physical changes. These include the relaxation response and stress relief. These should be obvious in the muscles, tendons and joints, but, less obvious in the nervous system. 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 and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure, connectivity, and activity of the brain. Indeed, yoga practice has been shown to protect the brain from age related degeneration.

 

The research on yoga effects on the nervous system is accumulating. It makes sense to pause and look at what has been learned. In today’s Research News article “What Has Neuroimaging Taught Us on the Neurobiology of Yoga? A Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7362763/) van Aalst and colleagues review and summarize 34 published research studies of the effects of yoga practice on the brain. The studies mainly included healthy adults.

 

They report that the published research studies used a wide variety of different yoga practices and as a result there were differences in the reported changes to the brain. Regardless, there were a number of similarities in the changes. They report that yoga practice increased the volume of brain areas especially the insular cortex and the hippocampus. Studies of activation of the brain have demonstrated that yoga produces increased activation of prefrontal cortical areas. Finally, studies of connectivity of brain areas have demonstrated that yoga practice increases functional connectivity in a series of brain areas that are known as the default mode network.

 

Yoga is known to increase body awareness. So, it is no surprise that the insular cortex is expanded by yoga practice. It has been shown to be involved in interoceptive body awareness. Yoga is also known to increase attentional ability. So, it is no surprise that the prefrontal cortical areas have increased activation with yoga practice. They have been shown to be involved in attention processing. Yoga is known to increase present moment awareness and decrease mind wandering. So, it is no surprise that yoga produces increased functional connectivity among the structures of the dorsal mode network. They have been shown to be involved in mind wandering and a lack of present moment awareness.

 

So, although differences in yoga practices produce differences in observed changes in the brain, there appear to consistent similarities. Yoga practice changes the brain in areas underlying body awareness, attention, and present moment awareness. It can be speculated that these changes in the brain underlie many of the physical and psychological benefits of yoga practice.

 

So, yoga changes the brain to improve body awareness, attention, and present moment awareness.

 

We can talk about anxiety, depression and blood pressure lowering in yoga, all of those are proven. But the biggest thing we see that results from yoga is that your quality of life will change for the better,” – Amy Wheeler

 

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

 

van Aalst, J., Ceccarini, J., Demyttenaere, K., Sunaert, S., & Van Laere, K. (2020). What Has Neuroimaging Taught Us on the Neurobiology of Yoga? A Review. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 14, 34. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2020.00034

 

Abstract

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, with several implicated physical and mental benefits. Here we provide a comprehensive and critical review of the research generated from the existing neuroimaging literature in studies of yoga practitioners. We reviewed 34 international peer-reviewed neuroimaging studies of yoga using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT): 11 morphological and 26 functional studies, including three studies that were classified as both morphological and functional. Consistent findings include increased gray matter volume in the insula and hippocampus, increased activation of prefrontal cortical regions, and functional connectivity changes mainly within the default mode network. There is quite some variability in the neuroimaging findings that partially reflects different yoga styles and approaches, as well as sample size limitations. Direct comparator groups such as physical activity are scarcely used so far. Finally, hypotheses on the underlying neurobiology derived from the imaging findings are discussed in the light of the potential beneficial effects of yoga.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7362763/

 

Meditation Alters a Variety of Biological Mechanisms and Improves Mental Disorders

Meditation Alters a Variety of Biological Mechanisms and Improves Mental Disorders

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation-which come in many variations-has long been acknowledged as a tool to master the mind and cope with stress. Science is increasingly validating those claims, especially for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” – Mental Health America

 

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. It is useful to review and summarize what has been discovered regarding the mechanisms by which meditation practice improves mental disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article “Biological mechanism study of meditation and its application in mental disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359050/) Shen and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research studies on the mechanisms by which meditation practice improves mental disorders.

 

They report that the published research has found complex and widespread changes in the nervous system occur as a result of meditation. In the central nervous system these are relatively long lasting changes in the amount and connectivity of the brain tissue, termed neuroplastic changes, and these may underlie the beneficial changes in the meditators. In addition, meditation appears to alter the peripheral nervous system, in particular, the autonomic nervous system. Meditation increases parasympathetic activity that underlies vegetative functions and relaxation. This may be one mechanism by which meditation improves stress responses.

 

They further report that the published research found that meditation improves the functions of the immune and inflammatory systems. These effects also improve stress responses and fighting off disease. Hence, the effects of meditation on these biological process may underlie meditations ability to improve health. Since inflammatory responses often accompany mental illnesses, this may also be a mechanism by which meditation improved mental disease.

 

On a genetic, microbiological, level meditation has been found to alter the expression of genes that promote health. This may be the underlying reason that meditation improves the immune and inflammatory systems. Also, on the genetic level the research has found that meditation promotes the preservation of telomeres. These are the ends of the chromosomes that shorten throughout the lifetime and are thought to perhaps underlie cellular aging. This mechanism may underlie meditation’s ability to slow the aging process.

 

Meditation has been found through systematic controlled research to improve a wide array of mental illnesses. These include depression, including major depressive disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Schizophrenia. In addition, meditation has been found to aid in recovery from substance abuse disorders and to help prevent relapse.

 

It is clear from the published scientific research that meditation alters a wide array of physiological processes and improves and improves an equally wide array of mental illnesses. It will be important in the future to link the two to begin to understand what physiological changes underlie which improvements in mental illness. Regardless it is clear that meditation has many beneficial effects that promote physical and mental well-being.

 

So, practice meditation to alter a variety of biological mechanisms and improve mental disorders.

 

Mindfulness exercises are valuable and useful for anyone, but most especially for people who are struggling with mental illness or addictions. “ – Sarah Levin

 

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

 

Shen, H., Chen, M., & Cui, D. (2020). Biological mechanism study of meditation and its application in mental disorders. General psychiatry, 33(4), e100214. https://doi.org/10.1136/gpsych-2020-100214

 

Abstract

In recent years, research on meditation as an important alternative therapy has developed rapidly and been widely applied in clinical medicine. Mechanism studies of meditation have also developed progressively, showing that meditation has great impact on brain structure and function, and epigenetic and telomere regulation. In line with this, the application of meditation has gradually been expanded to mental illness, most often applied for major depressive disorders and substance-related and addictive disorders. The focus of this paper is to illustrate the biological mechanisms of meditation and its application in mental disorders.

Conclusions

Over the past two decades, meditation has been used in a great variety of fields to relieve stress, regulate emotions and promote physical and mental health. In recent years, the application of meditation in the psychiatric field has gradually received attention. It has become an adjunctive and alternative therapy for depression, PTSD and ADHD and has been carried out for the acute and remission stages of treatment for severe schizophrenia. Additionally, it can ameliorate emotional distress, craving and withdrawal symptoms in substance addiction. However, the current researchers adopt different meditation methods and diverse training durations, which leads to the inability to systematically evaluate which type of meditation is more beneficial to which populations or diseases, and to completely elucidate the biological mechanism of meditation. In the future, further targets for selective meditation subtypes along with prescribed training time, and randomised controlled studies with sufficient samples are required to determine the efficacy of meditation on the one hand, and simultaneously study the mechanisms behind meditation on the mind–body interaction, which can better display the positive function of meditation as an ancient physical and mental healing method in promoting human health.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359050/

 

Meditate to Alter the Brain and Overcome Attention and Hyperactivity Problems Resulting from Childhood Neglect

Meditate to Alter the Brain and Overcome Attention and Hyperactivity Problems Resulting from Childhood Neglect

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Without appropriate clinical interventions, individuals exposed to relational trauma in childhood are at greater risk for difficulties in adult relationships and parenting.” At present, there is not much in the way of treatment for individual adults who have experienced childhood maltreatment: this study shows that mindfulness could help change that.” – Emily Nauman

 

Child maltreatment is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” (World Health Organization, 2016)

 

Childhood neglect is traumatic and can leave in its wake symptoms which can haunt the victims for the rest of their lives. These include cognitive impairments such as attentional difficulties, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactivity. Unfortunately, childhood neglect can continue to affect mental and physical health throughout the individual’s life. Fortunately, mindfulness training has been found to help. Indeed, mindfulness has been found to be effective for relieving trauma symptoms even in adults who were maltreated in childhood..

 

In today’s Research News article “Closed-loop digital meditation for neurocognitive and behavioral development in adolescents with childhood neglect.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235252/) Mishra and colleagues recruited adolescents (aged 10-18 years) who had experienced childhood neglect. They were randomly assigned to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive over the internet 30 sessions over 6 weeks of 30 minutes of either breath following meditation or attention to sensory information video games. They were measured before and after training and one year later for sustained attention, attention with distractors, inattention behaviors, hyperactivity, and academic performance. They also had their brains scanned with Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment and the attention to sensory information groups, the breath following meditation group after treatment had significant increases in attentional ability, both sustained and with distractors and a significant improvement in academic performance. In addition, the breath following meditation groups had a significant decrease in hyperactivity at the 1-year follow-up. The resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) revealed that the greater the level of childhood neglect experienced by the adolescents the lower the functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After treatment only the breath following meditation group had a significant increase in the functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the greater the increase in connectivity the greater the improvements in sustained attention and hyperactivity.

 

These are interesting and potentially important findings. Childhood neglect appears to result in impairments in the connectivity of a key brain area involved in regulating attention, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This could explain why neglected children have a higher likelihood of developing attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder in adolescents. Importantly, training in breath following meditation appears to some extent reverse the loss of functional connectivity and the attentional and hyperactivity symptoms of the adolescents and result in improved performance in school. Hence, training in breath following meditation may be very helpful in preventing childhood neglect from producing ADHD in adolescents and impairing their academic performance.

 

Another important aspect of the present study was that the treatment was provided over the internet. This greatly increases its availability, convenience, and utility and reduces cost. So, the treatment can be cost effectively scaled up to treat large numbers of adolescents scattered over wide geographic regions. This makes it available to adolescents who are neither near a therapist or can afford therapy.

 

Hence, meditate to alter the brain and overcome attention and hyperactivity problems resulting from childhood neglect.

 

The absence of emotional support in childhood can be as damaging and long-lasting as other traumas. But, because you can’t point to exactly where and when the wounding happened, it can be hard to identify and overcome it.” – Andrea Brandt

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Mishra, J., Sagar, R., Parveen, S., Kumaran, S., Modi, K., Maric, V., Ziegler, D., & Gazzaley, A. (2020). Closed-loop digital meditation for neurocognitive and behavioral development in adolescents with childhood neglect. Translational psychiatry, 10(1), 153. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-0820-z

 

Abstract

Adverse childhood experiences are linked to poor attentive behaviors during adolescence, as well as increased risk for mental health disorders in adults. However, no study has yet tested targeted interventions to optimize neurocognitive processes in this population. Here, we investigated closed-loop digital interventions in a double-blind randomized controlled study in adolescents with childhood neglect, and evaluated the outcomes using multimodal assessments of neuroimaging, cognitive, behavioral, and academic evaluations. In the primary neuroimaging results, we demonstrate that a closed-loop digital meditation intervention can strengthen functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in the cingulo-opercular network, which is critically developing during the adolescent period. Second, this intervention enhanced sustained attention and interference-resolution abilities, and also reduced behavioral hyperactivity at a 1-year follow-up. Superior academic performance was additionally observed in adolescents who underwent the digital meditation intervention. Finally, changes in dACC functional connectivity significantly correlated with improvements in sustained attention, hyperactivity, and academic performance. This first study demonstrates that closed-loop digital meditation practice can facilitate development of important aspects of neurocognition and real-life behaviors in adolescents with early childhood neglect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7235252/