Increase Brain Activity with Brief Exercise and Meditation

Increase Brain Activity with Brief Exercise and Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditating for a few minutes might help rein in those wandering thoughts and help you stay focused throughout the day. But meditating can have an even bigger impact. Some studies show that it affects the brain in various ways, from changing the brain’s volume to decreasing activity in the parts of the brain responsible for stress.” – Lela Moore

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. The nervous system changes in response to how it is used and how it is stimulated in a process called neuroplasticity. Highly used areas grow in size, metabolism, and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure and activity of the brain. One way to observe the effects of meditation on the nervous system is to measure changes in the functional near‐infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which measures blood flow to brain areas.

 

In today’s Research News article “Activation of the orbitofrontal cortex by both meditation and exercise: A near-infrared spectroscopy study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7901739/ ) Miyashiro and colleagues recruited healthy adults and had them perform 20 minutes of breath following meditation, exercise (pushups), or a control task (movie of scenery with relaxing music) in a random order. They then performed a 2-back test of attention involving presentation of a sequence of numbers and after a prompt, the recall of the number 2 places back. While performing this task the participants underwent measurement of brain activation with functional near‐infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

 

They did not observe a significant difference between groups on the 2-back test. But in comparison to the control condition, the meditation and exercise groups had significantly increased activation of the edges of the orbitofrontal cortex (insular cortex) that then spread to the central orbitofrontal cortex. The 20-minute interventions were too short to invoke neuroplasticity and produce long-lasting changes in this brain. The orbitofrontal cortex is known to be involved in attention. So, it is not surprising that attention demanding exercise and meditation would alter its activity while the plotless video would invoke mind wandering and a loss of attention.

 

So, increase brain activity with brief exercise and meditation.

 

]“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

 

Miyashiro, S., Yamada, Y., Muta, T., Ishikawa, H., Abe, T., Hori, M., Oka, K., Koshikawa, F., & Ito, E. (2021). Activation of the orbitofrontal cortex by both meditation and exercise: A near-infrared spectroscopy study. PloS one, 16(2), e0247685. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247685

 

Abstract

In some types of meditation, such as mindfulness and Zen, breathing is the focus of attention, whereas during an excessive, short-period of anaerobic exercise, the muscles become the focus of attention. Thus, during both efforts, one’s attention is focused on a certain feature of the body. Both meditation and exercise generally provide mental refreshment to humans. We hypothesized that the same brain regions are activated by both efforts in humans. To examine this hypothesis, we engaged participants in 3 tasks: meditation, exercise, and a control task. After each task, the participants underwent a 2-back test to concentrate their thoughts, while changes in their blood hemoglobin levels were simultaneously monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Seventeen participants (20–24 years of age; 11 men, 6 women) were enrolled. We applied a fast-Fourier transform (FFT) analysis to the NIRS wave data and calculated the correlation coefficients of the FFT data between (1) meditation and control, (2) exercise and control, and (3) meditation and exercise, at the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), brain areas that are generally involved in mental refreshment. A significant difference in the correlation coefficients between the OFC and DLPFC was detected in the meditation and exercise analysis, and signal source analysis confirmed that the NIRS waves spread from the right and left OFC edges (i.e., right and left temples) toward the center. Our results suggest that both meditation and exercise activate the OFC, which is involved in emotional reactions and motivation behavior, resulting in mental refreshment.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7901739/

Improve Working Memory and Increase Brain Activity with a Single Focused Meditation in Novice Meditators

Improve Working Memory and Increase Brain Activity with a Single Focused Meditation in Novice Meditators

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Regular meditation increases blood flow to the brain, which leads to a stronger network of blood vessels in the cerebral cortex and reinforces memory capacity.” – Mindworks

 

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

 

Memory ability is so important to everyday human functioning that it is important to study ways to maintain or improve it. Mindfulness has been shown to improve working memory capacity. Since the brain is responsible for working memory, the effects of mindfulness training on working memory must in some way be altering the brain. One way to observe the effects of meditation on the nervous system is to measure changes in the functional near‐infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which measures blood flow to brain areas. Hence, it makes sense to observe the effects of meditation on working memory and its association with cerebral flows.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of one-session focused attention meditation on the working memory capacity of meditation novices: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8413779/ ) Yamaya and colleagues recruited adult meditation naïve university students and randomly assigned them to practice for 15 minutes focused breath following meditation or listen to disconnected random conversations. During the 15-minute intervention period cerebral blood flow was measured with functional near‐infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). They were also measured 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after the 15-minute intervention period for working (short-term) memory.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the random thinking control group, the group that performed focused meditation had a significant increase in working memory capacity and a significant increase in cerebral blood flow to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. They found that the working memory change and the cerebral blood flow change were significantly correlated such that the greater the increase in cerebral blood flow, the greater the increase in working memory.

 

The results are interesting that a single 15-minute meditation by meditation naïve participants immediately increases working memory. The results further suggest that this memory improvement is associated with an increase in the flow of blood to a particular brain area, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, that has been shown to be involved in focused attention. This suggests that focused meditation activates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which improves working memory.

 

The very short-term nature of the study precludes any neuroplastic changes in the brain. But previous research has found that longer-term meditation produces long-term changes in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. It is unfortunate that in the present study there wasn’t a follow up to determine if the effects of the single 15-minute meditation were immediate and transitory or persisted for a period of time. Regardless, the results may provide a glimpse as to how meditation changes brain systems and in turn memory.

 

So, improve working memory and increase brain activity with a single focused meditation in novice meditators.

 

the mindfulness group had significantly less proactive interference during the memory test compared to the writing group, indicating an improvement in short-term memory.” – Jill Suttie

 

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

 

Yamaya, N., Tsuchiya, K., Takizawa, I., Shimoda, K., Kitazawa, K., & Tozato, F. (2021). Effect of one-session focused attention meditation on the working memory capacity of meditation novices: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study. Brain and behavior, 11(8), e2288. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.2288

 

Abstract

Introduction

Previous studies have revealed that one‐session focused attention meditation (FAM) can improve top‐down attention control, which is one of the factors of working memory capacity (WMC). In addition, FAM shares various neural substrates, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), with WMC. Thus, we hypothesized that one‐session FAM would improve WMC by activating the DLPFC evoked by the top‐down attention control. In this study, we examined whether FAM modified WMC in individuals with little to no meditation experience.

Methods

The participants were randomly assigned to either the FAM group (N = 13) or the control group (N = 17) who engaged in random thinking (i.e., mind‐wandering). Before and after each 15‐min intervention, the participants’ WMC was measured according to the total number of correct answers in the Reading Span Test. During each intervention, functional near‐infrared spectroscopy was employed to measure the blood flow in the participants’ DLPFC and determine the top‐down attention control effect.

Results

In the FAM group, WMC increased, and the bilateral DLPFC was activated during the intervention. As for the control group, WMC decreased after the intervention, and the bilateral DLPFC was not activated during the intervention. A correlation was also found among all participants between the increase in WMC and the activation of the bilateral DLPFC.

Conclusion

The study findings suggest that top‐down attention control during FAM can activate the bilateral DLPFC and increase WMC among meditation novices.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8413779/

 

Different Meditation Types Alter Brain Connectivity Patters Differently Over the Long Term

Different Meditation Types Alter Brain Connectivity Patters Differently Over the Long Term

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“[Meditation], regardless of each individual’s chosen object of attention, increases functional connectivity within attentional networks as well as increases connectivity across distributed brain regions serving attention, self-referential, and visual processes.” – Zongpai Zhang

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Neuroplasticity within and between Functional Brain Networks in Mental Training Based on Long-Term Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8393942/ ) Guidotti and colleagues recruited Buddhist monks highly experienced with both focused and open monitoring meditation (average of 16.4 years of practice with an average of 1200 hours of practice per year). They underwent functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scans during 6-minute meditations with focused and with open monitoring techniques.

 

They found that connectivity patterns were associated with the age of the participants during both meditation techniques. On the other hand, connectivity patterns were associated with years of meditation experience differently during focused versus open monitoring meditation. During both meditation types the functional connectivity within the Salience Network of the brain was reduced. During focused meditation there was increased connectivity within the Visual Network. During open monitoring meditation there was increase connectivity within the Executive Network and between the Executive and Language Networks. During open monitoring meditation there was also increase connectivity with Sensorimotor Network and its connections with the Default Mode Network.

 

These results are complicated and involve only experienced meditators. So, it is unknown whether the findings apply to novice or less experienced meditators and it cannot be determined what the differences might be in the brains of these highly experience meditators compared to non-meditators. But the results suggest that during focused and open monitoring meditation types have the same relationships with age related connectivity patterns in the brain while they have different associations with connectivity patterns in association with experience. This suggests that the two meditation types produce different neuroplastic changes in the brain as experience accumulates.

 

So, different meditation types alter brain connectivity patters differently over the long term.

 

people who meditate may actually have quicker brains than the rest of us. . . meditation can improve your brain’s ability to quickly switch between two main states of consciousness.” – Katie Spalding

 

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

 

Guidotti, R., Del Gratta, C., Perrucci, M. G., Romani, G. L., & Raffone, A. (2021). Neuroplasticity within and between Functional Brain Networks in Mental Training Based on Long-Term Meditation. Brain sciences, 11(8), 1086. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11081086

 

Abstract

(1) The effects of intensive mental training based on meditation on the functional and structural organization of the human brain have been addressed by several neuroscientific studies. However, how large-scale connectivity patterns are affected by long-term practice of the main forms of meditation, Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM), as well as by aging, has not yet been elucidated. (2) Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and multivariate pattern analysis, we investigated the impact of meditation expertise and age on functional connectivity patterns in large-scale brain networks during different meditation styles in long-term meditators. (3) The results show that fMRI connectivity patterns in multiple key brain networks can differentially predict the meditation expertise and age of long-term meditators. Expertise-predictive patterns are differently affected by FA and OM, while age-predictive patterns are not influenced by the meditation form. The FA meditation connectivity pattern modulated by expertise included nodes and connections implicated in focusing, sustaining and monitoring attention, while OM patterns included nodes associated with cognitive control and emotion regulation. (4) The study highlights a long-term effect of meditation practice on multivariate patterns of functional brain connectivity and suggests that meditation expertise is associated with specific neuroplastic changes in connectivity patterns within and between multiple brain networks.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8393942/

 

Increase Relaxation with Focused Meditation while Increasing Activation with Open Monitoring Meditation

Increase Relaxation with Focused Meditation while Increasing Activation with Open Monitoring Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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.” – Masahiro Fujino

 

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 affecting different psychological areas.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, often the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. Whether these different meditation types produce different effects has not been extensively studied.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Effects of Focused Attention and Open Monitoring Meditation on Autonomic Cardiac Modulation and Cortisol Secretion.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8320390/ ) Ooishi and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditation novices and had them engage in 30 minutes of either focused attention meditation, focusing on the breath, or open monitoring meditation in randomized order separated by 2 hours. They were measured before and after each meditation for heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and salivary cortisol.

 

They found that focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation both reduced respiration rates but produced different physiological responses. Analysis of the heart rate variability data revealed changes in the autonomic nervous system’s components of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These analyses suggested that focused attention meditation produced an increase in parasympathetic activation but not sympathetic activation while open monitoring meditation produced an increase in sympathetic activation but not parasympathetic activation and reduced salivary cortisol levels.

 

These findings suggest that focused attention meditation is associated with physiological relaxation while open monitoring meditation is associated with physiological activation. This fits with the findings that focused attention meditation produces greater reductions in anxiety compared to open monitoring meditation. But it needs to be kept in mind that the study employed brief, one-time meditations by meditation naïve participants. It is possible that focused attention meditation is simpler and produces less stress in naive participants while open monitoring meditation is more difficult to learn requiring greater effort and stress. It is clear that this work needs to be replicated with longer term meditation practice.

 

So, increase relaxation with focused meditation while increasing activation with open monitoring meditation.

 

Focused attention meditation improves focus.  . . an increased consciousness of bodily sensations. The open-monitoring meditation . .  increases our ability to resolve conflicts.  Open Monitoring meditation increases creativity by improving divergent and convergent thinking.” – Daily Meditation

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Ooishi, Y., Fujino, M., Inoue, V., Nomura, M., & Kitagawa, N. (2021). Differential Effects of Focused Attention and Open Monitoring Meditation on Autonomic Cardiac Modulation and Cortisol Secretion. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, 675899. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.675899

 

Abstract

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been used widely as a useful tool for the alleviation of various stress-related symptoms. However, the effects of MBIs on stress-related physiological activity have not yet been ascertained. MBIs primarily consist of focused-attention (FA) and open-monitoring (OM) meditation. Since differing effects of FA and OM meditation on brain activities and cognitive tasks have been mentioned, we hypothesized that FA and OM meditation have also differing effects on stress-related physiological activity. In this study, we examined the effects of FA and OM meditation on autonomic cardiac modulation and cortisol secretion. Forty-one healthy adults (aged 20–46 years) who were meditation novices experienced 30-min FA and OM meditation tasks by listening to instructions. During resting- and meditation-states, electrocardiogram transducers were attached to participants to measure the R-R interval, which were used to evaluate heart rate (HR) and perform heart rate variability (HRV) analyses. Saliva samples were obtained from participants pre- and post-meditation to measure salivary cortisol levels. Results showed that FA meditation induced a decrease in HR and an increase in the root mean square of successive differences (rMSDD). In contrast, OM meditation induced an increase in the standard deviation of the normal-to-normal interval (SDNN) to rMSSD ratio (SDNN/rMSSD) and a decrease in salivary cortisol levels. These results suggest that FA meditation elevates physiological relaxation, whereas OM meditation elevates physiological arousal and reduces stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8320390/

 

Meditation Increases Functional Connectivity of Brain Networks

Meditation Increases Functional Connectivity of Brain Networks

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation,” – Bin He

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Longitudinal effects of meditation on brain resting-state functional connectivity.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8166909/ ) Zhang and colleagues recruited novice meditators enrolled in a university meditation course. They practiced focused attention meditation over 2 months twice a week in class and at home 5 times per week for 10 minutes. Before and after training the students had their brains scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

They found that after the 2-month meditation training the participants had significant increases in the functional connectivity within the Dorsal Attention Network of the brain and between the Dorsal Attention Network and the Default Mode Network and also between the Default Mode Network and the visual cortex.

 

The Dorsal Attention Network is a series of structures in the brain that are associated with attentional focusing while the Default Mode Network is a series of structures in the brain that are associated with self-referential thought and mind wandering. Typically, during focused attention meditation, particularly in novice meditators, the mind switches back and forth between focus on the object of meditation and unfocused mind wandering. During mind wandering, visualizations of this content often occur. This usually occurs repeatedly during the meditation session. This switching involves going back and forth between the Dorsal Attention Network and the Default Mode Network and the visual areas of the brain. The brain scan findings indicate that this results in an increase in the functional connectivity between the two networks. Hence, the changes in the mental contents during meditation are reflected in brain activity.

 

So, meditation increases functional connectivity of brain networks.

 

So, not only did meditation change the structures in the participants’ brains, it also changed how they felt.” – Lela Moore

 

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

 

Zhang, Z., Luh, W. M., Duan, W., Zhou, G. D., Weinschenk, G., Anderson, A. K., & Dai, W. (2021). Longitudinal effects of meditation on brain resting-state functional connectivity. Scientific reports, 11(1), 11361. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-90729-y

 

Abstract

Changes in brain resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) were investigated using a longitudinal design by following a 2-month focused attention meditation (FAM) practice and analyzing their association with FAM practice time. Ten novice meditators were recruited from a university meditation course. Participants were scanned with a resting-state fMRI sequence with multi-echo EPI acquisition at baseline and at the 2-month follow-up. Total FAM practice time was calculated from the daily log of the participants. We observed significantly increased rsFC between the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and dorsal attention network (DAN), the right middle temporal (RMT) region and default mode network (DMN), the left and right superior parietal lobules (LSPL/RSPL) and DMN, and the LSPL/RSPL and DAN. Furthermore, the rsFC between the LSPL and medial prefrontal cortex was significantly associated with the FAM practice time. These results demonstrate increased connectivity within the DAN, between the DMN and DAN, and between the DMN and visual cortex. These findings demonstrate that FAM can enhance the brain connection among and within brain networks, especially DMN and DAN, indicating potential effect of FAM on fast switching between mind wandering and focused attention and maintaining attention once in the attentive state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8166909/

 

Different Meditation Styles Affect the Medial Frontal Brain Network Differently

Different Meditation Styles Affect the Medial Frontal Brain Network Differently

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“meditation has a variety of neurological benefits, from changes in brain volume to decreasing activity in parts of the brain involved with stress.” – Ashley Welch

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. How exactly mindfulness practices produce their benefits is unknown. But it is known that meditation practice alters brain activity.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, usually the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation 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. It is suspected but not known that different forms of meditation practice can produce different changes in brain activity.

 

One way is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. In today’s Research News article “Attentional and cognitive monitoring brain networks in long-term meditators depend on meditation states and expertise.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7921394/ )  Yordanova and colleagues recruited highly experienced meditators who practiced focused attention meditation, open monitoring meditation, and Loving Kindness Meditation in a balanced way. They had their electroencephalograms (EEG) recorded while at rest and while performing the 3 meditation types for 3 minutes each.

 

They found that the Frontal-Parietal network, that is thought to underlie attentional mechanisms did not differ between meditation types. But there was increased connectivity between the right hemisphere frontal and left hemisphere parietal areas. On the other hand, the Medial Frontal network that is thought to underlie cognitive control and monitoring mechanisms had different activity patterns with the different meditation types. During focused attention meditation was increased synchronization in the parietal regions whereas during Loving Kindness Meditation it increased in the right frontal regions.

 

These are interesting findings that demonstrate that highly experienced meditators have distinct changes in the activity of their brains during meditation regardless of type. But in areas associated with cognitive monitoring mechanisms, difference appear. During focused attention meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation there are different patterns of activity. To some extent this is not surprising in that the two meditation types involve specific focuses. But Loving Kindness Meditation is emotionally focused while focused attention meditation is breath sensation focused and these require different kinds of cognitive control. These differences may underlie the different medial frontal activities.

 

It should be noted that these patterns are quite different from those of inexperienced meditators and that the greater the amount of practice the greater the neural activations. It would be expected that highly experienced meditators would have greater focus and much less mind wandering during meditation than inexperience meditators and this would produce different patterns of neural activation.

 

So, different meditation styles affect the medial frontal brain network differently.

 

Meditation benefits for the brain are abundant. Meditating strengthens neural connections and can literally change the configuration of these networks. With regular practice, you can cultivate a more resilient neurobiology.” – Ask the Scientists

 

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

 

Yordanova, J., Kolev, V., Nicolardi, V., Simione, L., Mauro, F., Garberi, P., Raffone, A., & Malinowski, P. (2021). Attentional and cognitive monitoring brain networks in long-term meditators depend on meditation states and expertise. Scientific reports, 11(1), 4909. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-84325-3

 

Abstract

Meditation practice is suggested to engage training of cognitive control systems in the brain. To evaluate the functional involvement of attentional and cognitive monitoring processes during meditation, the present study analysed the electroencephalographic synchronization of fronto-parietal (FP) and medial-frontal (MF) brain networks in highly experienced meditators during different meditation states (focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation). The aim was to assess whether and how the connectivity patterns of FP and MF networks are modulated by meditation style and expertise. Compared to novice meditators, (1) highly experienced meditators exhibited a strong theta synchronization of both FP and MF networks in left parietal regions in all mediation styles, and (2) only the connectivity of lateralized beta MF networks differentiated meditation styles. The connectivity of intra-hemispheric theta FP networks depended non-linearly on meditation expertise, with opposite expertise-dependent patterns found in the left and the right hemisphere. In contrast, inter-hemispheric FP connectivity in faster frequency bands (fast alpha and beta) increased linearly as a function of expertise. The results confirm that executive control systems play a major role in maintaining states of meditation. The distinctive lateralized involvement of FP and MF networks appears to represent a major functional mechanism that supports both generic and style-specific meditation states. The observed expertise-dependent effects suggest that functional plasticity within executive control networks may underpin the emergence of unique meditation states in expert meditators.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7921394/

 

Increase the Energy Metabolism of the Brain with Meditation

Increase the Energy Metabolism of the Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

As a form of mental training, meditation improves core physical and psychological assets, including energy, motivation, and strength. Studies on the neurophysiological concomitants of meditation have proved that commitment to daily practice can bring promising changes for the mind and the body.” –  Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury

 

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

 

In today’s Research News article “Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821578/ ) Gizewski and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditation naïve yoga students and provided them with 7 weeks of twice a week 45-minute training in Raja yoga meditation. This focused meditation training emphasizes the cessation of thinking and includes meditation and breathing exercises. They were measured before and after training for meditative depth, health history, lifestyle, anxiety, depression, and angst. Before and after training they also underwent brain scanning with structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and for brain energy metabolism (31P-MRS).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline after Raja yoga meditation training there were significant increases overall mental health and decreases in anxiety and dysthymia. There were also significant increases in brain energy metabolism particularly in the right hemisphere in the occipital and temporal lobes and the basal ganglia.

 

This study did not contain a comparison, control, condition which opens the results up to some alternative interpretations. But ignoring these possible contaminants, the study suggests that 7 weeks of meditation training can alter the brain. This has been demonstrated with numerous studies of changes in the structure, connectivity, and electrical activity of the brain produced by mindfulness training. The present study adds to this understanding by demonstrating the focused meditation training increases the energy metabolism in the brain particularly in the posterior cerebral cortex and the motor control areas. Meditation training is thought to be relaxing and the technique used here is one that emphasizes reduction in mental activity. But the present study suggests that the brain can get very active. This suggests that there is considerable mental activity going on during meditation.

 

So, increase the energy metabolism of the brain with meditation.

 

Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. “True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self,” –  Burke Lennihan,

 

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

 

Gizewski, E. R., Steiger, R., Waibel, M., Pereverzyev, S., Sommer, P., Siedentopf, C., Grams, A. E., Lenhart, L., & Singewald, N. (2021). Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy. Brain and behavior, 11(1), e01914. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1914

 

Abstract

Background

Meditation is increasingly attracting interest among neuroimaging researchers for its relevance as a cognitive enhancement technique and several cross‐sectional studies have indicated cerebral changes. This longitudinal study applied a distinct and standardized meditative technique with a group of volunteers in a short‐term training program to analyze brain metabolic changes.

Methods

The effect of 7 weeks of meditation exercises (focused attention meditation, FAM) was assessed on 27 healthy volunteers. Changes in cerebral energy metabolism were investigated using 31P‐MR spectroscopy. Metabolite ratios were compared before (T1) and after training (T2). Additional questionnaire assessments were included.

Results

The participants performed FAM daily. Depression and anxiety scores revealed a lower level of state anxiety at T2 compared to T1. From T1 to T2, energy metabolism ratios showed the following differences: PCr/ATP increased right occipitally; Pi/ATP decreased bilaterally in the basal ganglia and temporal lobe on the right; PCr/Pi increased in occipital lobe bilaterally, in the basal ganglia and in the temporal lobe on the right side. The pH decreased temporal on the left side and frontal in the right side. The observed changes in the temporal areas and basal ganglia may be interpreted as a higher energetic state, whereas the frontal and occipital areas showed changes that may be related to a down‐regulation in ATP turnover, energy state, and oxidative capacity.

Conclusions

The results of the current study indicate for the first time in a longitudinal study that even short‐term training in FAM may have considerable effects on brain energy state with different local energy management in specific brain regions. Especially higher energetic state in basal ganglia may represent altered function in their central role in complex cerebral distributed networks including frontal and temporal areas. Further studies including different forms of relaxation techniques should be performed for more specific and reliable insights.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821578/

 

Mindfulness-Based Therapies Benefits are Greatly Affected by Social Factors in Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Therapies Benefits are Greatly Affected by Social Factors in Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental, mindfulness-based interventions, whether offered individually or in a group setting, may offer benefit to people seeking therapy for any number of concerns.” – Manuel A. Manotas

 

Psychotherapy is an interpersonal transaction. Its effectiveness in treating the ills of the client is to some extent dependent upon the chemistry between the therapist and the client, termed the therapeutic alliance. Research has demonstrated that there is a positive relationship with moderate effect sizes between treatment outcomes and the depth of the therapeutic alliance.

 

There are also other factors that may be important for successful therapy. The client’s engagement in the process as well as the therapists interpersonal skills may also be important ingredients in producing successful therapeutic outcomes. There are also important social factors present particularly when the therapy is provided in groups. In addition, formal and informal practice effects are involved. There is little known, however, of the role of these components of therapy on the effectiveness of treatment for mental health issues such as depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Contribution of Common and Specific Therapeutic Factors to Mindfulness-Based Intervention Outcomes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874060/ )  Canby and colleagues recruited patients diagnosed with mild to severe depression and randomly assigned them to receive once a week for 8 weeks, 3 hour sessions of either focused meditation, open monitoring meditation or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which contains both focused and open monitoring meditation practices. Before and after the 8-weeks of practice and 3 months later they were measured for empathy, therapeutic alliance, formal and informal mindfulness practices, depression, anxiety, stress, mindfulness, and group therapeutic factors in group therapy: instillation of hope, secure emotional expression, awareness of relational impact, and social learning. Finally, they received structured interviews exploring mindfulness practices and impact of treatment.

 

They found that the over treatment and follow-up the groups had significantly increased mindfulness and significantly decreased anxiety, depression and stress. They found that the higher the ratings of the instructors. the ratings of the groups and the amounts of formal meditation practice the greater the changes. In general, the instructor and group factors had stronger relationships to the psychological improvements than the amount of formal meditation and the amount of informal meditation practice had no relationship with the improvements. The analysis of the structured interviews indicated that the participants found the instructor and group factors including bonding, instilling hope, and expressing feelings were important to their improvements.

 

These results are interesting replicate previous findings of mindfulness-based therapies produce improvements in anxiety, depression, and stress. The results suggest that mindfulness-based therapies have complex effects and changes in mindfulness may be less important than the social environment produced by the instructor and the group. These social factors may account for a large proportion of the benefits to the participants. These results are important as they suggest that empathizing the social interactions involved in therapy may improve the impact of the therapy on the patients’ psychological well-being.

 

So, mindfulness-based therapies benefits are greatly affected by social factors in therapy.

 

Mindfulness’ strength is in helping us to see more clearly, by giving us the room to not be so quickly reactive. And over time the event does not have to jump to emotional distress, like a grasshopper leaping over a stream.” – 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

 

Canby, N. K., Eichel, K., Lindahl, J., Chau, S., Cordova, J., & Britton, W. B. (2021). The Contribution of Common and Specific Therapeutic Factors to Mindfulness-Based Intervention Outcomes. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 603394. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.603394

 

Abstract

While Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have been shown to be effective for a range of patient populations and outcomes, a question remains as to the role of common therapeutic factors, as opposed to the specific effects of mindfulness practice, in contributing to patient improvements. This project used a mixed-method design to investigate the contribution of specific (mindfulness practice-related) and common (instructor and group related) therapeutic factors to client improvements within an MBI. Participants with mild-severe depression (N = 104; 73% female, M age = 40.28) participated in an 8-week MBI. Specific therapeutic factors (formal out-of-class meditation minutes and informal mindfulness practice frequency) and social common factors (instructor and group ratings) were entered into multilevel growth curve models to predict changes in depression, anxiety, stress, and mindfulness at six timepoints from baseline to 3-month follow-up. Qualitative interviews with participants provided rich descriptions of how instructor and group related factors played a role in therapeutic trajectories. Findings indicated that instructor ratings predicted changes in depression and stress, group ratings predicted changes in stress and self-reported mindfulness, and formal meditation predicted changes in anxiety and stress, while informal mindfulness practice did not predict client improvements. Social common factors were stronger predictors of improvements in depression, stress, and self-reported mindfulness than specific mindfulness practice-related factors. Qualitative data supported the importance of relationships with instructor and group members, involving bonding, expressing feelings, and instilling hope. Our findings dispel the myth that MBI outcomes are exclusively the result of mindfulness meditation practice, and suggest that social common factors may account for much of the effects of these interventions. Further research on meditation should take into consideration the effects of social context and other common therapeutic factors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874060/

 

Focused Meditation has Superior Effectiveness for Emotional Disorders

Focused Meditation has Superior Effectiveness for Emotional Disorders

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

               

“meditation can help you relax and reduce stress. It can also help you disengage from stressful or anxious thoughts, and better control your mood.” – Healthline

 

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 affecting different psychological areas.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, often the breath. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced including thoughts regardless of its origin.  Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) employs both focused and open monitoring meditation and also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During therapy the patient is trained to investigate and alter aberrant thought patterns. It is important to understand which form of meditation training works best for which conditions.

 

In today’s Research News article “The contributions of focused attention and open monitoring in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for affective disturbances: A 3-armed randomized dismantling trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802967/ ) Cullen and colleagues recruited adults with mild-moderate depression and anxiety and randomly assigned them to an 8-week program of one of three meditation types; focused meditation, open monitoring meditation, or their combination as occurs in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They were measured before training and weekly over the 8-week program and 12 weeks later for depression, stress, and anxiety.

 

They found that all three meditation programs produced significant improvements in depression, stress, and anxiety at the end of training and 12 weeks later. But Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and focused meditation produced significantly greater reductions in anxiety at the 12-week follow-up than open monitoring meditation. During training statistically significant improvements in depression, stress, and anxiety occurred first for focused meditation, followed by MBCT, and last by open monitoring meditation.

 

These are interesting results that again demonstrate the efficacy of meditation training in improving depression, stress, and anxiety. They also found that the training in both focused and open monitoring meditation as occurs in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) did not produce superior results to the individual meditation types. Finally, they show the focused meditation may be superior to open monitoring meditation in relieving depression, stress, and anxiety. The participants who practiced focused meditation improved faster and at follow up had lower levels of anxiety than those who practiced open monitoring meditation.

 

The reason for the differences in the effectiveness of the different meditation types is unknown. But focused meditation may be simpler and easier to learn and practice than open monitoring meditation. Also, open monitoring meditation by having the practitioner open up awareness to everything that’s being experienced may allow for anxiety, stress, and depression to more easily arise during the session. Future research should investigate these possibilities.

 

So, focused meditation has superior effectiveness for emotional disorders.

 

Within just a week or two of regular meditation, you should see a noticeable change in your mood and stress level. “People will start to feel some inner peace and inner poise, even in the midst of their busy lives,” – Burke Lennihan.

 

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

 

Cullen, B., Eichel, K., Lindahl, J. R., Rahrig, H., Kini, N., Flahive, J., & Britton, W. B. (2021). The contributions of focused attention and open monitoring in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for affective disturbances: A 3-armed randomized dismantling trial. PloS one, 16(1), e0244838. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244838

 

Abstract

Objective

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) includes a combination of focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) meditation practices. The aim of this study was to assess both short- and long-term between- and within-group differences in affective disturbance among FA, OM and their combination (MBCT) in the context of a randomized controlled trial.

Method

One hundred and four participants with mild to severe depression and anxiety were randomized into one of three 8-week interventions: MBCT (n = 32), FA (n = 36) and OM (n = 36). Outcome measures included the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS), and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS). Mixed effects regression models were used to assess differential treatment effects during treatment, post-treatment (8 weeks) and long-term (20 weeks). The Reliable Change Index (RCI) was used to translate statistical findings into clinically meaningful improvements or deteriorations.

Results

All treatments demonstrated medium to large improvements (ds = 0.42–1.65) for almost all outcomes. While all treatments were largely comparable in their effects at post-treatment (week 8), the treatments showed meaningful differences in rapidity of response and pattern of deteriorations. FA showed the fastest rate of improvement and the fewest deteriorations on stress, anxiety and depression during treatment, but a loss of treatment-related gains and lasting deteriorations in depression at week 20. OM showed the slowest rate of improvement and lost treatment-related gains for anxiety, resulting in higher anxiety in OM at week 20 than MBCT (d = 0.40) and FA (d = 0.36), though these differences did not reach statistical significance after correcting for multiple comparisons (p’s = .06). MBCT and OM showed deteriorations in stress, anxiety and depression at multiple timepoints during treatment, with lasting deteriorations in stress and depression. MBCT showed the most favorable pattern for long-term treatment of depression.

Conclusions

FA, OM and MBCT show different patterns of response for different dimensions of affective disturbance.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802967/

 

Improve Caregivers Psychological and Physiological Health with Meditation

Improve Caregivers Psychological and Physiological Health with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for a loved one? One of the most effective ways to avoid burnout is engaging in a mindfulness practice like meditation.” – Audrey Meinertzhagen

 

There is a tremendous demand for caregiving in the US. It is estimated that over 65 million (29% of the adult population) provides care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, averaging 20 hours per week spent caring for their loved ones. This caregiving comes at a cost exacting a tremendous toll on caregivers’ health and well-being. Caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation on Mental Health and Cardiovascular Balance in Caregivers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828286/ ) Díaz-Rodríguez and colleagues recruited caregivers for dependent family members for at least 2 years. They were assigned to either no treatment or to receive twice weekly, 2-hour, sessions of focused meditation training on the basis of availability for the training sessions. They were measured before and after training for happiness, anxiety, depression, heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, the group that received meditation training were significant higher in happiness and heart rate variability and significantly lower in anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. Hence meditation training improved the mental health and cardiovascular balance of caregivers.

 

These are excellent results. A higher level of heart rate variability is an indicator of increased parasympathetic and reduced sympathetic nervous system activity. Hence, the relaxation promoting portion of the autonomic nervous system increases while the portion promoting activation and arousal decreases. This is further evidenced by the significant decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. This suggest that a 4-week training in meditation improves caregivers’ psychological and physiological state. The effectiveness of the caregiving was not measured but based upon the improvements observed it would be expected that the quality of caregiving would also be improved. This suggests that meditation training should be recommended for caregivers.

 

So, improve caregivers psychological and physiological health with meditation.

 

Caregiving is a tough job and the stress can seriously affect your physical and mental health. An effective and simple way to combat that is to meditate.” – Daily Caring

 

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

 

Díaz-Rodríguez, L., Vargas-Román, K., Sanchez-Garcia, J. C., Rodríguez-Blanque, R., Cañadas-De la Fuente, G. A., & De La Fuente-Solana, E. I. (2021). Effects of Meditation on Mental Health and Cardiovascular Balance in Caregivers. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 617. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020617

 

Abstract

Background: Caring for a loved one can be rewarding but is also associated with substantial caregiver burden, developing mental outcomes and affecting happiness. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of a four-week, 16-h presential meditation program on physiological and psychological parameters and vagal nerve activity in high-burden caregivers, as compared to a control group. Methods: A non-randomized repeated-measures controlled clinical trial was conducted. Results: According to the ANCOVA results, the global happiness score (F = 297.42, p < 0.001) and the scores for all subscales were significantly higher in the experimental group than in the control group at 5 weeks. Anxiety levels were also significantly reduced in the experimental group (F = 24.92, p < 0.001), systolic (F = 16.23, p < 0.001) and diastolic blood (F = 34.39, p < 0.001) pressures, and the resting heart rate (F = 17.90, p < 0.05). HRV results revealed significant between-group differences in the HRV Index (F = 8.40, p < 0.05), SDNN (F = 13.59, p < 0.05), and RMSSD (F = 10.72, p < 0.05) in the time domain, and HF (F = 4.82 p < 0.05)) in the frequency domain, which were all improved in the experimental group after the meditation program. Conclusions: Meditation can be a useful therapy to enhance the mental health and autonomic nervous system balance of informal caregivers, improving symptoms of physical and mental overload.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828286/