Social Mindfulness is Reduced in Patients with Psychosis

Social Mindfulness is Reduced in Patients with Psychosis

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“There is increasing evidence that specially adapted mindfulness techniques can be used safely and effectively in the management and treatment of severe mental health problems, such as psychosis.” – Carly Samson

 

Psychoses are mental health problems that cause people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations; seeing and, in some cases, feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t objectively there, or delusions; unshakable beliefs that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior, making it difficult if not impossible to function in society without treatment. Psychoses appear to be highly heritable and involves changes in the brain. The symptoms of psychoses usually do not appear until late adolescence or early adulthood. There are, however, usually early signs of the onset of psychoses which present as cognitive impairments.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be beneficial for patients with psychosis. Individuals with psychosis almost always have difficulties with social functioning. It is reasonable then to investigate the social mindfulness of patients having their first psychotic episode. In today’s Research News article “). Social Mindfulness and Psychosis: Neural Response to Socially Mindful Behavior in First-Episode Psychosis and Patients at Clinical High-Risk.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381043/ ), Lemmers-Jansen and colleagues recruited patients having their first psychotic episode aged 16 to 22 years, individuals at high clinical risk for developing psychosis, and healthy control participants..

 

The participants were measured for social mindfulness, intelligence, and positive and negative symptoms of psychosis. In the social mindfulness task, the participants made a choice that would either enhance (socially mindful) or decrease (socially unmindful) choices for another unseen participant. They performed the task initially without instruction and again after being instructed “to keep the other’s best interest in mind.” The participants performed the social mindfulness task while undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Scans (f-MRI) of their brains.

 

They found that the patients with their first psychotic episode tended to make less socially mindful choices both before and after instruction than either the individuals at high clinical risk for developing psychosis, and healthy control participants. In addition, the patients with psychosis showed less activation of the caudate during mindful choices and less activation of the medial and dorsal prefrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex during unmindful choices that the other groups.

 

The neural findings suggest that the psychotic patients used less higher-level thinking when making socially unmindful choices (prefrontal cortex) and received less reward for making socially mindful choices (caudate). This suggests that the psychotic patients are less mindful because they’re responding with less thought and with less reinforcement for making socially mindful choices. Regardless, it is clear that a laboratory test confirms what is reported in the patients that they respond less well to social situations.

 

Fears about meditation triggering psychosis were holding back progress in this area, despite growing evidence that a specially adapted form of mindfulness training could prove safe and very beneficial for these patients.” – Plastic Brain

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Lemmers-Jansen, I., Fett, A. J., Van Doesum, N. J., Van Lange, P., Veltman, D. J., & Krabbendam, L. (2019). Social Mindfulness and Psychosis: Neural Response to Socially Mindful Behavior in First-Episode Psychosis and Patients at Clinical High-Risk. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 47. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00047

 

Abstract

Background: Psychosis is characterized by problems in social functioning and trust, the assumed glue to positive social relations. But what helps building trust? A prime candidate could be social mindfulness: the ability and willingness to see and consider another person’s needs and wishes during social decision making. We investigated whether first-episode psychosis patients (FEP) and patients at clinical high-risk (CHR) show reduced social mindfulness, and examined the underlying neural mechanisms.

Methods: Twenty FEP, 17 CHR and 46 healthy controls, aged 16–31, performed the social mindfulness task (SoMi) during fMRI scanning, spontaneously and after the instruction “to keep the other’s best interest in mind.” As first of two people, participants had to choose one out of four products, of which three were identical and one was unique, differing in a single aspect (e.g., color).

Results: FEP tended to choose the unique item (unmindful choice) more often than controls. After instruction, all groups significantly increased the number of mindful choices compared to the spontaneous condition. FEP showed reduced activation of the caudate and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) during mindful, and of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), mPFC, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) during unmindful decisions. CHR showed reduced activation of the ACC compared to controls.

Discussion: FEP showed a trend toward more unmindful choices. A similar increase of mindful choices after instruction indicated the ability for social mindfulness when prompted. Results suggested reduced sensitivity to the rewarding aspects of social mindfulness in FEP, and reduced consideration for the other player. FEP (and CHR to a lesser extent) might perceive unmindful choices as less incongruent with the automatic mindful responses than controls. Reduced socially mindful behavior in FEP may hinder the building of trust and cooperative interactions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381043/

 

Improve Executive and Emotional Control of Grief with Mindfulness

Improve Executive and Emotional Control of Grief with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness for grief is not about whitewashing your pain, or “getting over” your loss. It is about learning how to stay present, cultivate compassion, and make wise choices that will help you cope with this new normal known as life after loss.” – Heather Stang

 

Grief is a normal, albeit complex, process that follows a loss of a significant person or situation in one’s life. This can involve the death of a loved one, a traumatic experience, termination of a relationship, loss of employment etc. Exactly what transpires depends upon the individual and the nature of the loss. It involves physical, emotional, psychological and cognitive processes. Not everyone grieves in the same way but there have been identified four general stages of grief, shock and denial, intense concern, despair and depression, and recovery. These are normal and healthy. But, in about 15% of people grief can be overly intense or long and therapeutic intervention may become necessary.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found to help with coping with loss and its consequent grief.  Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)  was specifically developed to treat depression. MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy That is designed to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. This would seem to be an ideal treatment protocol to treat intense grief.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Improves Emotion Regulation and Executive Control on Bereaved Individuals: An fMRI Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360180/ ), Huang and colleagues recruited participants who had lost a significant relative within the last 4 years and self-reported intense unresolved grief. They completed an 8-week, once a week for 2.5 hours Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) treatment including daily, 30-40 minute, home practice. The participants were measured before and after treatment for grief, anxiety, depression, and emotion regulation.

 

The participants also underwent 3 brain scanning sessions with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). During 2 of the sessions they performed a numerical Stroop task in which they were to report which of 2 numerals was larger. In one session they were to ignore the physical size of the numeral and only report on the numerically larger numeral. In the second session they were to ignore the numerical magnitude of the numeral and only report on the physically larger numeral. This task measures cognitive interference and executive control.

 

They found that after MBCT treatment there were large and highly significant increases in mindfulness and emotion regulation and decreases in grief, anxiety, and depression. They also found that after treatment the higher the level of mindfulness the lower the levels of grief, anxiety, and depression. In addition, the participants after treatment were significantly better at ignoring irrelevant stimuli and respond faster in the Stroop task. This suggests reduced negative emotionality and improved cognitive control.

 

The researchers observed that after treatment during the cognitive task there was a decrease in activity in the cingulate cortex. These areas are involved in what is termed the Default Mode Network which becomes active during mind wandering and self-referential thinking. In other words, the brain areas associated with a lack of attention to the task at hand became less active. This suggests that there was greater attention to the present moment after MBCT training.

 

Long-term intense grief can be very harmful to the psychological and physical well-being of the individual. The present findings suggest that MBCT practice may be an effective treatment. It appears to reduce the negative emotions and improve the ability to regulate them in grieving individuals. It appears to do so, by altering the brain systems associated with mind wandering. It is during mind wandering where rumination occurs that tends to exacerbate anxiety and depression. So, the brain changes produced by MBCT treatment tend to keep the individual focused on the present lowering the impact of the past on their emotional state.

 

So, improve executive and emotional control of grief with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness reminds us that pain and sorrow, like all else, are impermanent.  Does this mean grief goes away completely?  Of course not.   But it does mean that it will change shape and form, it will ebb and flow, some days it will hurt like hell and some days you will start to smile.  It means that our grief, like everything else, is impermanent and ever-changing.  Once we accept this, even if only on a rational level, some of the need to avoid our grief starts to diminish.  We can stop believing it is permanent and will never change, even when we feel it will last forever.  We can start noticing and accepting our grief for what it really is and the small changes every day in our experiences.’ – WYG

 

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

 

Huang, F. Y., Hsu, A. L., Hsu, L. M., Tsai, J. S., Huang, C. M., Chao, Y. P., Hwang, T. J., … Wu, C. W. (2019). Mindfulness Improves Emotion Regulation and Executive Control on Bereaved Individuals: An fMRI Study. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 541. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00541

 

Abstract

The grief of bereavement is recognized as a severe psychosocial stressor that can trigger a variety of mental and physical disorders, and the long-lasting unresolved grief has a detrimental effect on brain functionality. Literature has documented mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) as an efficient treatment for improving well-being, specifically related to the mood and cognition, in a variety of populations. However, little attention has been devoted to neural mechanisms with regard to bereaved individuals’ cognition after MBCT intervention. In this study, we recruited 23 bereaved participants who lost a significant relative within 6 months to 4 years to attend 8-week MBCT course. We used self-reporting questionnaires to measure emotion regulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with the numerical Stroop task to evaluate the MBCT effect on executive control among the bereaved participants. The self-reported questionnaires showed improvements on mindfulness and reductions in grief, difficulties in emotion regulation, anxiety, and depression after the MBCT intervention. The fMRI analysis demonstrated two scenarios: (1) the activity of the fronto-parietal network slightly declined accompanied with significant improvements in the reaction time of incongruent trials; (2) the activities in the posterior cingulate cortex and thalamus were positively associated with the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief, implying emotional interferences on cognitive functions. Results indicated that MBCT facilitated the executive control function by alleviating the emotional interferences over the cognitive functions and suggested that the 8-week MBCT intervention significantly improved both executive control and emotion regulation in bereaved individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360180/

 

Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi

Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai Chi . . improves brain health and can be an effective solution for simple, age-related decline in brain function.” – FAI Education

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging and to increase brain matter in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_907099_69_Psycho_20190212_arts_A ), Liu and colleagues recruited older (60 to 70 years of age) adults who had been practicing Tai Chi for at least 10 years and control participants who were matched to the Tai Chi group on age, physical activity and gender. They were measured for mindfulness, depression, impulsivity, and personality. They also underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The participants also completed a computerized risk-taking task which had both positive or negative outcomes. They completed emotion ratings after each outcome.

 

They found that the experienced Tai Chi practitioners had significantly greater emotional stability and took less risks than the control group. Additionally, the Tai Chi group had significantly stronger emotional reactions to both good and bad outcomes in the risk-taking task. The brain scans revealed that the Tai Chi group had significantly greater grey matter in the areas of the brain known as the hippocampus and the thalamus. They also found that the greater the grey matter in the thalamus the greater the levels of mindfulness and emotional stability while the greater the grey matter in the hippocampus the greater the levels of emotional stability and lower levels of neuroticism and risk taking.

 

These are interesting results but the study is correlational and cross sectional. So, care must be exercised in interpretation of causation. But the fact that the control group was equally physically active as the Tai Chi group is a strength that suggests that the results were due to Tai Chi practice per se and not just to the physical activity produced by Tai Chi practice. The results suggest that Tai Chi practice may help to protect the brain, particularly the thalamus and hippocampus, from age-related degeneration as has been previously reported, and this protection may be associated with greater emotional stability and lower risk taking.

 

The findings of less risk taking of the elderly Tai Chi participants may be an important observation. The elderly may be vulnerable to injury and falls that can produce serious injuries in this group. One reason that Tai Chi may produce fewer falls in the elderly is that they are being more careful and taking fewer risks. The elderly are also financially vulnerable and may benefit from less financial risk taking in protecting their available resources.

 

So, protect the brain from age-related atrophy with Tai Chi.

 

regular practice of Tai Chi could play an important role in promoting both brain and muscle health in older adults. Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise worth exploring at any age.” – Marilyn Wei

 

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

 

Liu S, Li L, Liu Z and Guo X (2019) Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders. Front. Psychol. 10:91. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091

 

Brain adverse structural changes, especially the atrophy of gray matter, are inevitable in aging. Fortunately, the human brain is plastic throughout its entire life. The current cross-section study aimed to investigate whether long-term Tai Chi exercise could slow gray matter atrophy and explore the possible links among gray matter volume (GMV), long-term Tai Chi experience and emotional stability in a sequential risk-taking task by using voxel-based morphometry. Elders with long-term Tai Chi experience and controls, who were matched to Tai Chi group in age, gender, physical activity level, participated in the study. A T1-weighted multiplanar reconstruction sequence was acquired for each participant. Behaviorally, the Tai Chi group showed higher meditation level, stronger emotional stability and less risk-taking tendency in the sequential risk-taking compared to the control group. Moreover, the results revealed that the GMV of the thalamus and hippocampus were larger in the Tai Chi group compared with the control group. Notably, the GMV of the thalamus was positively correlated with both meditation level and emotional stability. The current study suggested the protective role of long-term Tai Chi exercise at slowing gray matter atrophy, improving the emotional stability and achieving successful aging for elders.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_907099_69_Psycho_20190212_arts_A

 

Change the Brain for Greater Well-Being with Meditation

Change the Brain for Greater Well-Being with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Short‐term Sahaja Yoga meditation training modulates brain structure and spontaneous activity in the executive control network.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6346416/pdf/BRB3-9-e01159.pdf ), Dodich and colleagues recruited meditation naïve college students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 1-hour Sahaja yoga meditation practice 4 times per week for 4 weeks. Sahaja yoga meditation is an open monitoring meditation technique designed to produce mental silence. The participants underwent brain scans with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) before and after the 4 weeks of meditation training.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list controls, the participants who received meditation training and practice had significant increases in the brain grey matter density in the inferior frontal gyrus. They also found that the greater the grey matter density the greater the self-reported well-being by the meditation participants.

 

The inferior frontal gyrus is known to be involved in attention, self-control, and self-awareness. These are exactly the skills trained in meditation practice. This suggests that this relatively short-term practice produces neuroplastic changes in the brain expanding the brain matter in the regions underlying the trained skills and this is associated with improved well-being.

 

So, change the brain for greater well-being with meditation.

 

“So, what’s the best way to build a better brain? Backed by 1000’s of studies, meditation is the neuroscientific community’s most proven way to upgrade the human brain.” – EOC Institute

 

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

 

Dodich A, Zollo M, Crespi C, et al. Short‐term Sahaja Yoga meditation training modulates brain structure and spontaneous activity in the executive control network. Brain Behav. 2019;9:e01159. https://doi.org/10.1002/ brb3.1159

 

Abstract Introduction: While cross‐sectional studies have shown neural changes in long‐term meditators, they might be confounded by self‐selection and potential baseline differences between meditators and non meditators. Prospective longitudinal studies of the effects of meditation in naïve subjects are more conclusive with respect to causal inferences, but related evidence is so far limited. Methods: Here, we assessed the effects of a 4‐week Sahaja Yoga meditation training on gray matter density and spontaneous resting‐state brain activity in a group of 12 meditation‐naïve healthy adults. Results: Compared with 30 control subjects, the participants to meditation training showed increased gray matter density and changes in the coherence of intrinsic brain activity in two adjacent regions of the right inferior frontal gyrus encompassing the anterior component of the executive control network. Both these measures correlated with self‐reported well‐being scores in the meditation group. Conclusions: The significant impact of a brief meditation training on brain regions associated with attention, self‐control, and self‐awareness may reflect the engagement of cognitive control skills in searching for a state of mental silence, a distinctive feature of Sahaja Yoga meditation. The manifold implications of these findings involve both managerial and rehabilitative settings concerned with well‐being and emotional state in normal and pathological conditions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6346416/pdf/BRB3-9-e01159.pdf

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Changing Neural Connectivity in Children and Adolescents

Mindfulness is Associated with Changing Neural Connectivity in Children and Adolescents

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation training increases resting state connectivity between top-down executive control regions, highlighting an important mechanism through which it reduces stress levels.” Daniel Reed

 

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 children and 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 “Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610942/ ), Marusak and colleagues examined the relationship of mindfulness with brain activity in the maturing brain. They recruited children and adolescents aged 7 to 17 years and measured them for mindfulness, anxiety, and depression.

 

The children and adolescents then had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Imaging (fMRI). The scans were evaluated for static connectivity, the relatively permanent connections between brain areas, and dynamic connectivity, the changing connections between areas. They looked specifically at 3 systems in the brain, the central executive network, associated with higher level thinking and attention, the salience and emotion network, associate with the importance of stimuli, and the default mode network, associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking.

 

They found that mindfulness was associated with better mental health of the children and adolescents with high levels of mindfulness significantly associated with low levels of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness was also significantly associated with the amount of present-moment oriented thinking occurring during the brain scan session. Mindfulness was not associated with static connectivity within the children’s and adolescents’ brains.

 

With dynamic connectivity on the other hand, they found that mindfulness was associated with greater numbers of transitions between connectivity states. That is, the higher the levels of mindfulness the greater the number of times the connectivity pattern in the brain changed from one set of connections to another. Finally, they also found that the numbers of transitions between connectivity states mediated the association of mindfulness with lower anxiety, such that mindfulness was associated with lower anxiety both with a direct association of mindfulness with lower anxiety and indirectly by higher mindfulness being associated with greater dynamic connectivity which was in turn associated with lower anxiety.

 

The results suggest that mindfulness is associated with greater brain flexibility in transitioning from different states and this may allow for less anxiety. This suggests that mindfulness allows for greater ability to see things and evaluate what is occurring in different ways and this helps the youths to better appreciate what is happening and thereby lower anxiety. These are incredibly interesting findings that begin to reveal the neural dynamics occurring in children and adolescents that underlie the ability of mindfulness to improve mental health. Mindfulness isn’t associated with different brain connectivity structures in the brains but rather with different abilities to switch around in real time between systems and this improves mental health.

 

“Just 11 hours of learning a meditation technique induce positive structural changes in brain connectivity by boosting efficiency in a part of the brain that helps a person regulate behavior in accordance with their goals.” – University of Oregon

 

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

 

Marusak, H. A., Elrahal, F., Peters, C. A., Kundu, P., Lombardo, M. V., Calhoun, V. D., Goldberg, E. K., Cohen, C., Taub, J. W., … Rabinak, C. A. (2017). Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents. Behavioural brain research, 336, 211-218.

 

Abstract

Background

Interventions that promote mindfulness consistently show salutary effects on cognition and emotional wellbeing in adults, and more recently, in children and adolescents. However, we lack understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying mindfulness in youth that should allow for more judicious application of these interventions in clinical and educational settings.

Methods

Using multi-echo multi-band fMRI, we examined dynamic (i.e., time-varying) and conventional static resting-state connectivity between core neurocognitive networks (i.e., salience/emotion, default mode, central executive) in 42 children and adolescents (ages 6–17).

Results

We found that trait mindfulness in youth relates to dynamic but not static resting-state connectivity. Specifically, more mindful youth transitioned more between brain states over the course of the scan, spent overall less time in a certain connectivity state, and showed a state-specific reduction in connectivity between salience/emotion and central executive networks. The number of state transitions mediated the link between higher mindfulness and lower anxiety, providing new insights into potential neural mechanisms underlying benefits of mindfulness on psychological health in youth.

Conclusions

Our results provide new evidence that mindfulness in youth relates to functional neural dynamics and interactions between neurocognitive networks, over time.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610942/

 

Improve Brain Connectivity with Meditation

Improve Brain Connectivity with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.“ – Alice Walton

 

There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It even improves high level thinking known as executive function and emotion regulation and compassion. 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 changes are complex and require sophisticated brain scanning techniques to detect. Hence there is a need to continue investigating the nature of these changes in the brain produced by meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differences in Functional Connectivity of the Insula Between Brain Wave Vibration in Meditators and Non-meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244630/ ), Jang and colleagues recruited meditation practitioners and meditation naïve participants. The meditation practitioners had been practicing Brain Wave Meditation daily for at least a year. This meditation technique “is designed to help quiet the thinking mind and release negative emotions by performing specific rhythmic physical movements and focusing on bodily sensations.” The participants then underwent resting functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of their brains.

 

They found that in comparison to the meditation naïve controls the meditators had greater levels of functional connectivity between the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex and the Insula and Thalamus. There was also increased functional connectivity between the Insula and the Superior Temporal Gyrus. The Insula Cortex is thought to be involved in interoceptive awareness, that is the awareness of the body and the sensations from the body. The Thalamus is the major sensory relay in the brain transferring sensory information throughout the brain. The Prefrontal Cortex is thought to be involved in attention and higher-level thinking, cognition.

 

The findings, then, suggest that meditation practice changes the brain in such a way as to improve attention and thought processes regarding internal sensations. This implies better attention to emotional states and better ability to regulate emotions. Indeed, it has been well established that meditation practice improves attention, high level thinking and emotion regulation. This, in turn, may underlie the increases in compassion toward the self and others that has been shown to occur in meditators. Better emotion regulation would increase psychological and physical well-being of practitioners. Thus, some of the benefits of meditation appear to be reflected in changes to the brain which may underlie these benefits.

 

So, improve brain connectivity with meditation.

 

an added bonus of meditating is that the connection between the helpful aspects of the Me Center (i.e. dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) – the part involved in processing information related to people we perceive as being not like us – and the bodily sensation center – involved in empathy – becomes stronger.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

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

 

Jang, J. H., Kim, J. H., Yun, J. Y., Choi, S. H., An, S. C., & Kang, D. H. (2018). Differences in Functional Connectivity of the Insula Between Brain Wave Vibration in Meditators and Non-meditators. Mindfulness, 9(6), 1857-1866.

 

Abstract

The majority of meditation involves focusing attention on internal events or sensations and becoming aware of emotions. The insula cortex, through a functional connection with the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions, plays a key role in integrating external sensory information with internal bodily state signals and emotional awareness. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the resting-state functional connectivity of the insula with other brain regions in meditation practitioners and control subjects. Thirty-five Brain Wave Vibration meditation practitioners and 33 controls without meditation experience were included in this study. All subjects underwent 4.68-min resting-state functional scanning runs using magnetic resonance imaging. The anterior and posterior insulae were chosen as seed regions for the functional connectivity map. Meditation practitioners showed significantly greater insula-related functional connectivity in the thalamus, caudate, middle frontal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus than did controls. Control subjects demonstrated greater functional connectivity with the posterior insula in the parahippocampal gyrus. Our findings suggest that the practice of Brain Wave Vibration meditation may be associated with functional differences in regions related to focused attention, executive control, and emotional awareness and regulation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244630/

 

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Meditation

Change the Brain to Reduce Anxiety with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“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.” In this way, you become aware of the full context of the story, like seeing a flower opening in slow-motion photography. With this awareness, over time “your solid belief in a storyline may begin to erode.” – Zindel Segal

 

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. Meditation practice has been found to improve the regulation of emotions and reduce difficult emotional states such as anxiety and depression.

 

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. Meditation practice has been shown to change the brain and the brain’s reaction to emotions. The activity of the amygdala in the brain is highly associated with emotions. Hence, it would appear likely that meditation practice may alter the amygdala’s activity in response to emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Atypical Anxiety-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Functional Connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288484/ ), Chen and colleagues recruited healthy highly experienced meditators and healthy meditation naive participants. The meditators practiced Sant Mat meditation for 4 hours per day and had been practicing for at least 4 years. They also had a vegetarian diet and abstained from alcohol. The meditation practice incorporated loving kindness meditation.

 

All participants were measured for their state anxiety and their trait anxiety. The participants viewed colorized pictures of faces while their brain activity was monitored with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They were asked to ignore everything about the faces except their color which they responded to with a button press. The faces were both male and female expressing either happy, fearful, or neutral emotions.

 

They found that the meditators were significantly less anxious than the controls in both state and trait anxiety and the greater the number of years of meditation experience the lower the levels of anxiety. The meditators were also significantly slower in responding to the faces color. Slower responding has been associated with lower anxiety. It is well documented that meditation practice lowers anxiety. So, the lower levels in the meditators and slower responding were expected.

 

In terms of the brain amygdala responses to the face stimuli, the meditators had significantly lower responses regardless of the emotion portrayed. In addition, the meditators had a stronger amygdala response to happy faces than fearful faces while the controls had the opposite pattern with higher amygdala responses to fearful faces than happy faces. Mediation analysis indicated that the years of meditation experience was directly related to lower anxiety but the amygdala response partly meditated the effect such that the more years of meditation experience the lower the response of the amygdala and the lower the levels of anxiety.

 

These are interesting and entirely consistent results. The amygdala is known to be involved in emotionality. The results suggest that meditation experience alters the amygdala to respond less to emotional stimuli and to respond more to positive emotional stimuli than negative emotional stimuli. These lower responses may be the source of the effect of meditation practice of improved regulation of emotions. The greater responses of the amygdala in meditators to positive emotional stimuli may be the source of the effect of meditation practice of increased happiness.

 

It needs to be recognized that the meditators also had vegetarian diets and abstained from alcohol while the meditation naïve participants did not. It is possible that the differences observed stemmed from these differences rather than the meditation. It should also be noted that the meditators practiced 4 hours per day which is much more than most meditators, placing these meditators as outliers of amounts of meditation practice. Whether similar results may be observed with lower levels of meditation practice should be an important question for future research.

 

So, change the brain to reduce anxiety with meditation.

 

To me, this amazing brain science and the very real rewards gained from meditation combine to form a compelling argument for developing and/or maintaining a daily practice. It definitely motivates me on those days I don’t “feel” like sitting. So, try to remind yourself that meditating every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, will keep those newly formed connections strong and those unhelpful ones of the past at bay.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

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

 

Chen, C., Chen, Y. C., Chen, K. L., & Cheng, Y. (2018). Atypical Anxiety-Related Amygdala Reactivity and Functional Connectivity in Sant Mat Meditation. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 12, 298. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00298

 

Abstract

While meditation has drawn much attention in cognitive neuroscience, the neural mechanisms underlying its emotional processing remains elusive. Sant Mat meditators were recruited, who adopt a loving-kindness mode of meditation along with a vegetarian diet and an alcohol-restricted lifestyle and novices. We assessed their State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and scanned their amygdala reactivity in response to an explicit and implicit (backward masked) perception of fearful and happy faces. In contrast with novices, meditators reported lower STAI scores. Meditators showed stronger amygdala reactivity to explicit happiness than to fear, whereas novices exhibited the opposite pattern. The amygdala reactivity was reduced in meditators regardless of implicit fear or happiness. Those who had more lifetime practice in meditation reported lower STAI and showed a weaker amygdala response to fear. Furthermore, the amygdala in meditators, relative to novices, had a stronger positive functional connectivity with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) to explicit happiness, but a more negative connectivity with the insula and medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) to explicit fear. Mediation analysis indicated the amygdala reactivity as the mediator for the linkage between meditation experience and trait anxiety. The findings demonstrate the neural correlates that underpin the beneficial effects of meditation in Sant Mat. Long-term meditation could be functionally coupled with the amygdala reactivity to explicit and implicit emotional processing, which would help reduce anxiety and potentially enhance well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288484/

 

Meditation Alters Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli

Meditation Alters Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation facilitates strengthening the Assessment Center, weakening the unhelpful aspects of the Me Center (that can cause you to take things personally), strengthening the helpful parts of the Me Center (involved with empathy and understanding others) and changing the connections to/from the bodily sensation/fear centers such that you experience sensations in a less reactive, more balanced and holistic way. In a very real way, you literally are changing your brain for the better when you meditate.” – Rebecca Gladding

 

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.

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to produce improved emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control emotions. This ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation may be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health.

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Does Meditation Alter Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli? A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243128/ ), Magalhaes and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the ability of mindful practice to alter brain responses to improve the regulation of emotions especially reactions to negative events.

 

They identified 11 published studies that used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to assess brain responses to negative stimuli before and after mindfulness training. Six of these studies involved a comparison to a control group while five involved before after comparisons. They found that the research, in general, indicated that mindfulness training resulted in greater activation of the frontal and prefrontal cortical regions of the brain in response to negative emotion eliciting stimuli. A number of studies also identified greater activation of the insular cortical region.

 

These are interesting findings as the frontal and prefrontal cortical regions have been identified as involved in higher level thought processes and particularly attentional processes. This suggests that a top down, cognitive, regulation of emotion is elicited to negative stimuli. Hence, it appears that individuals, trained in mindfulness, deal with negative emotions with attention and reason, analyzing the reality of the situation, and thereby responding less intensely and more adaptively and appropriately.

 

The insular region has been shown to be involved in body sense, particularly interoceptive awareness of the state of the body. Its heightened response to negative stimuli after mindfulness training suggests that trained individuals have a heightened sense of how their bodies are responding to a negative emotion. Many people are unaware of their physiological reactions to emotions. By improving this internal awareness mindfulness training may make individuals better able to detect when a emotion is arising and thereby better able to regulate it.

 

Hence, the published research indicates that mindfulness training results in changes to the brain that improve the detection of emotional reactions and the ability to attend to and rationally process the conditions that elicited them. These neuroplastic changes to the brain may underlie the ability of mindfulness training to enhance emotion regulation in response to negative situations and thereby improve the mental health of practitioners.

 

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

 

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

 

Magalhaes, A. A., Oliveira, L., Pereira, M. G., & Menezes, C. B. (2018). Does Meditation Alter Brain Responses to Negative Stimuli? A Systematic Review. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 448. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00448

 

Abstract

Background: Despite several attempts to review and explain how meditation alters the brain and facilitates emotion regulation, the extent to which meditation and emotion regulation strategies share the same neural mechanisms remains unclear.

Objective: We aim to understand the influence of meditation on the neural processing of negative emotional stimuli in participants who underwent meditation interventions (naive meditators) and long-term meditators.

Methodology: A systematic review was conducted using standardized search operators that included the presence of terms related to emotion, meditation and neuro-imaging techniques in PsycInfo, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases.

Results: Searches identified 882 papers, of which 11 were eligible for inclusion. Results showed a predominance of greater prefrontal/frontal activity related to meditation, which might indicate the increased recruitment of cognitive/attentional control resources in naïve and long-term meditators. This increased frontal activity was also observed when participants were asked to simply react to negative stimuli. Findings from emotion-related areas were scarce but suggested increased insular activity in meditators, potentially indicating that meditation might be associated with greater bodily awareness.

Conclusions: Meditation practice prompts regulatory mechanisms when participants face aversive stimuli, even without an explicit request. Moreover, some studies reported increased insular activity in meditators, consistent with the hypothesis that meditation helps foster an interoceptive awareness of bodily and emotional states.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243128/

 

Mindfulness is Associated with Different Brain Responses to Angry Faces

Mindfulness is Associated with Different Brain Responses to Angry Faces

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Being mindful of anger means not suppressing, denying or avoiding it and also not acting out in harmful ways. Instead, connect with the direct experience of the anger, and then decide what action you want to take.” — Jessica Morey

 

Anger not only produces changes in our behavior and mood, it also produces changes in our physiology, including the brain. It activates the “fight or flight” system in the body, sympathetic nervous, and releases activating hormones. The net result is an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, sweating, especially the palms, feeling hot in the neck/face, shaking or trembling, and decreased heart rate variability. In addition, anger affects and is affected by the brain. These physical effects can be used to objectively measure anger responses. They are also stressful and if prolonged can be damaging to the individual’s health.

 

If we can control our anger, we will generally be a happier person. But, at times, it is very difficult to do so. Mindfulness and meditation can help. It has been shown to improve our ability to regulate our emotions including anger.  Mindfulness appears to improve our ability not to suppress our emotions, but to fully experience them and yet be better able to respond to them constructively and adaptively.

 

In today’s Research News article “Relationship of mindful awareness to neural processing of angry faces and impact of mindfulness training: A pilot investigation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5480240/ ), Lee and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to the brain’s activity in response to angry stimuli.

 

They recruited right handed healthy adults. Ten of the 18 participants received an 8-week, once a week for 2.5 hours, program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). ”It includes training in formal meditation practices like body scan, sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful movement, as well as informal practices to integrate mindfulness into everyday life.” Participants were asked to practice at home for 45 minutes a day for 6 days per week. The participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness and anger. They were also tested for their brain’s response to pictures of angry or neutral faces while simply indicating whether the face was male or female. While viewing the faces their brains were scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

 

They found at baseline, before training, that in response to angry faces the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the activation of the parietal lobe while the higher the level of anger the greater the activation of the middle frontal gyrus and bilateral angular gyrus. Hence, the participants’ brains responded to the angry faces differently than to the neutral faces and the level of response depended upon their baseline levels of mindfulness and anger. After MBSR training there was a significant increase in mindfulness but no significant change in the fMRI responses to the faces.

 

It is interesting that MBSR training did not change the neural responses to angry faces as it has been shown previously that MBSR training decreases anger in the participants and it would be assumed that changes in anger would be associated with changes in the brains activity in response to stimuli associated with anger. It may well be that viewing angry faces is totally different from actually being personally angry. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness is associated with different brain responses to angry faces.

 

“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.” — Charles Swindoll

 

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

 

Lee, A., Gansler, D. A., Zhang, N., Jerram, M. W., King, J. A., & Fulwiler, C. (2017). Relationship of mindful awareness to neural processing of angry faces and impact of mindfulness training: A pilot investigation. Psychiatry research. Neuroimaging, 264, 22-28.

 

Abstract

Mindfulness is paying attention, non-judgmentally, to experience in the moment. Mindfulness training reduces depression and anxiety and influences neural processes in midline self-referential and lateralized somatosensory and executive networks. Although mindfulness benefits emotion regulation, less is known about its relationship to anger and the corresponding neural correlates. This study examined the relationship of mindful awareness and brain hemodynamics of angry face processing, and the impact of mindfulness training. Eighteen healthy volunteers completed an angry face processing fMRI paradigm and measurement of mindfulness and anger traits. Ten of these participants were recruited from a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class and also completed imaging and other assessments post-training. Self-reported mindful awareness increased after MBSR, but trait anger did not change. Baseline mindful awareness was negatively related to left inferior parietal lobule activation to angry faces; trait anger was positively related to right middle frontal gyrus and bilateral angular gyrus. No significant pre-post changes in angry face processing were found, but changes in trait mindful awareness and anger were associated with sub-threshold differences in paralimbic activation. These preliminary and hypothesis-generating findings, suggest the analysis of possible impact of mindfulness training on anger may begin with individual differences in angry face processing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5480240/

 

Open Monitoring and Focused Meditation Alter Different Brain Systems

Open Monitoring and Focused Meditation Alter Different Brain Systems

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“…In focused attention or concentration meditation, you direct your attention to a chosen object, such as the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils, and you keep your attention focused on that object from moment to moment. 

…In open monitoring meditation — or “open awareness” meditation, as I prefer to call it — you cultivate an “objectless” awareness, which doesn’t focus on any explicit object but remains open and attentive to whatever arises in experience from moment to moment.” – Evan Thompson

 

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

 

Two in particular types of meditation can be 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, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioners, their psychology and their brains. 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 has found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028418/ ), Fujino and colleagues recruited experienced meditators and scanned their brains for functional connectivity between structures with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI) while they were engaging in open monitoring meditation, and again when engaging in focused attention meditation. Each f-MRI session was preceded by a week of practicing the appropriate meditation type at home.

 

They found that both meditation types produced decreased functional connectivity between the striatum, a component of the attention neural network and the posterior cingulate cortex a component of the Default Mode Network that is usually active during mind wandering. These findings suggest that both techniques help keep the mind focused and successfully suppress the mind straying from the task at hand.

 

The meditation techniques also produced differences in functional connectivity with open monitoring meditation reducing functional connectivity of the ventral striatum with both the visual cortex and retrosplenial cortex while focused attention meditation increasing this connectivity. In some ways this is not surprising as the striatum – visual cortex connection is thought to be involved in intentional focused attention. It would be expected that  focused attention meditation would strengthen this while open monitoring meditation would weaken it. In addition, the visual cortex is thought to be involved in memory. This suggests that open monitoring meditation may reduce the tendency to have memories interjected into the meditation practice.

 

So, the results are suggestive of similar effects of open monitoring meditation and focused attention meditation on the brain systems maintaining attention and suppressing mind wandering and differing effects on the brain system underlying focused attention and memory. These differing neural changes suggest that the two practices produce different experiential effects on the individual during practice.

 

“Open monitoring meditation is known to make you more creative. And if you feel as though you are stuck in a rut or as though you need to find alternative solutions to problems, then this can be a very effective techniques to use.

Focused attention meditation, as you know, is all about focusing your mind on one thing at a time, often the breath. This is good for improve focus and concentration, for stopping multitasking, and also for various health reasons.” – Paul Harrison

 

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

 

Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., & Nomura, M. (2018). Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8, 9968. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28274-4

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation consists of focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM), both of which reduce activation of the default mode network (DMN) and mind-wandering. Although it is known that FAM requires intentional focused attention, the mechanisms of OMM remain largely unknown. To investigate this, we examined striatal functional connectivity in 17 experienced meditators (mean total practice hours = 920.6) during pre-resting, meditation, and post-resting states comparing OMM with FAM, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Both FAM and OMM reduced functional connectivity between the striatum and posterior cingulate cortex, which is a core hub region of the DMN. Furthermore, OMM reduced functional connectivity of the ventral striatum with both the visual cortex related to intentional focused attention in the attentional network and retrosplenial cortex related to memory function in the DMN. In contrast, FAM increased functional connectivity in these regions. Our findings suggest that OMM reduces intentional focused attention and increases detachment from autobiographical memory. This detachment may play an important role in non-judgmental and non-reactive attitude during OMM. These findings provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the contribution of OMM to well-being and happiness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028418/