Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Negative Emotions in College Students

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Negative Emotions in College Students

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance and lead to burnout.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditationmindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students.

 

In today’s Research News article “Investigating the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on stress level and brain activity of college students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9121238/ ) An and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive 8 weekly 1.5-hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) along with home practice. MBSR consists of meditation, yoga, and body scan practices along with group discussion. They were measured before and after training and 2 months later for perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. They also had their electroencephalogram (EEG) measured while performing a stressful task (easy, moderate, and hard mental arithmetic, and the Stroop task).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment group, the students who received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training had significantly reduced levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression that were maintained 2 months later with the exception of perceived stress which continued to significantly decline from the end of training to 2 months later. They also found that during the stressful tasks that the alpha rhythm power in the EEG was significantly increased in the frontal, temporal, and occipital areas after MBSR.

 

Alpha power is reflective of relaxation. These findings then suggest that mindfulness training improves psychological well-being and the ability to relax under stress. Although not investigated, the improvements should translate into better academic performance. Nevertheless, mindfulness training is highly beneficial to college students and should be recommended.

 

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

An A, Hoang H, Trang L, Vo Q, Tran L, Le T, Le A, McCormick A, Du Old K, Williams NS, Mackellar G, Nguyen E, Luong T, Nguyen V, Nguyen K, Ha H. Investigating the effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on stress level and brain activity of college students. IBRO Neurosci Rep. 2022 May 14;12:399-410. doi: 10.1016/j.ibneur.2022.05.004. PMID: 35601693; PMCID: PMC9121238.

 

Abstract

Financial constraints usually hinder students, especially those in low-middle income countries (LMICs), from seeking mental health interventions. Hence, it is necessary to identify effective, affordable and sustainable counter-stress measures for college students in the LMICs context. This study examines the sustained effects of mindfulness practice on the psychological outcomes and brain activity of students, especially when they are exposed to stressful situations. Here, we combined psychological and electrophysiological methods (EEG) to investigate the sustained effects of an 8-week-long standardized Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention on the brain activity of college students. We found that the Test group showed a decrease in negative emotional states after the intervention, compared to the no statistically significant result of the Control group, as indicated by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (33% reduction in the negative score) and Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS-42) scores (nearly 40% reduction of three subscale scores). Spectral analysis of EEG data showed that this intervention is longitudinally associated with increased frontal and occipital lobe alpha band power. Additionally, the increase in alpha power is more prevalent when the Test group was being stress-induced by cognitive tasks, suggesting that practicing MBSR might enhance the practitioners’ tolerance of negative emotional states. In conclusion, MBSR intervention led to a sustained reduction of negative emotional states as measured by both psychological and electrophysiological metrics, which supports the adoption of MBSR as an effective and sustainable stress-countering approach for students in LMICs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9121238/

 

Alter Cognition of Patients with Anxiety with Mindfulness

Alter Cognition of Patients with Anxiety with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Anxiety can mentally exhaust you and have real impacts on your body. But before you get anxious about being anxious, know that research has shown you can reduce your anxiety and stress with a simple mindfulness practice.” – Mandy Ferreira 

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18% of the population. A characterizing feature of anxiety disorders is that the sufferer overly identifies with and personalizes their thoughts. The sufferer has recurring thoughts, such as impending disaster, that they may realize are unreasonable, but are unable to shake. Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects, and these drugs are often abused. There are several psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders.

 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disordersMBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy that attempts to teach patients to distinguish between thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors, and to recognize irrational thinking styles and how they affect behavior. But how MBCT affects the thought processes in anxiety disorders needs further investigation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: A Preliminary Examination of the (Event-Related) Potential for Modifying Threat-Related Attentional Bias in Anxiety.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9159034/ ) Gupta and colleagues recruited adults with high levels of anxiety and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly 2.5 hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) along with home practice presented either online of in-person. Before and after training they were measured for anxiety, depression, and perceived stress. In addition, the participants had their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded while performing a task to measure threat-related attentional bias.

 

They found that after Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) there were significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perceived stress. In addition, after MBCT EEG responses and response times to pictures of faces showing emotions were reduced. Hence, mindfulness training improved the psychological well-being of anxious adults in association with reduced brain responses to emotional faces.

 

As you become more mindful, you will also notice that you will become more centered, happier, and less depressed and this in turn has a direct positive effect on your anxiety.” – Stefan G. Hofmann

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Gupta, R. S., Kujawa, A., Fresco, D. M., Kang, H., & Vago, D. R. (2022). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: A Preliminary Examination of the (Event-Related) Potential for Modifying Threat-Related Attentional Bias in Anxiety. Mindfulness, 1–14. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-022-01910-x

 

Abstract

Objectives

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in adults with anxiety disorders, and changes in threat-related attentional bias may be a key mechanism driving the intervention’s effects on anxiety symptoms. Event-related potentials (ERPs) can illuminate the physiological mechanism through which MBCT targets threat bias and reduces symptoms of anxiety. This preliminary study examined whether P1 ERP threat–related attentional bias markers in anxious adults change from pre- to post-MBCT delivered in-person or virtually (via Zoom) and investigated the relationship between P1 threat–related attentional bias markers and treatment response.

Methods

Pre- and post-MBCT, participants with moderate to high levels of anxiety (N = 50) completed a dot-probe task with simultaneous EEG recording. Analyses focused on pre- and post-MBCT P1 amplitudes elicited by angry-neutral and happy-neutral face pair cues, probes, and reaction times in the dot-probe task and anxiety and depression symptoms.

Results

Pre- to post-MBCT, there was a significant reduction in P1-Probe amplitudes (d = .23), anxiety (d = .41) and depression (d = .80) symptoms, and reaction times (d = .10). Larger P1-Angry Cue amplitudes, indexing hypervigilance to angry faces, were associated with higher levels of anxiety both pre- and post-MBCT (d = .20). Post-MBCT, anxiety symptoms were lower in the in-person versus virtual group (d = .80).

Conclusions

MBCT may increase processing efficiency and decreases anxiety and depression symptoms in anxious adults. However, changes in threat bias specifically were generally not supported. Replication with a comparison group is needed to clarify whether changes were MBCT-specific.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9159034/

 

Improve Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students with Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“negative emotional reactivity associated with neuroticism is partially due to low levels of mindfulness.” – Mario Wenzel

 

Neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training.

 

Mindfulness is also known to affect the activity of the nervous system. One way to observe the effects of mindfulness on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. Changes in these brain activities can be compared before and after mindfulness training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students: A Pilot Mindfulness-Based Intervention to Assess Its Effectiveness through Brain Signals and Behavioral Data.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9002961/ ) Izhar and colleagues recruited college women who had been identified as having neuroticism. In phase 1 they had their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded while viewing negative emotion eliciting film clips followed by a measure of cognitive response inhibition. In phase 2 they were provided with an 6-week breathing-based mindfulness training and had them practice it for at least 5 minutes daily. Before and after training they were measured for emotions, anxiety, depression, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. In phase 3 the EEG recording was repeated.

 

They found that after the mindfulness training the students had significant reductions in judgement and non-reactivity to inner experiences, anxiety, perceived stress, and the maladaptive emotion regulation strategy of suppression. In addition, after mindfulness training the students’ EEGs had significant increases in resting alpha and theta rhythms and decreases in delta rhythms.

 

These data suggest that mindfulness training improves the emotional state and emotion regulation in neurotic college women in part by altering brain activity. This further suggests that mindfulness training should be effective in improving the mental health of young women with neuroticism.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Izhar, L. I., Babiker, A., Rizki, E. E., Lu, C. K., & Abdul Rahman, M. (2022). Emotion Self-Regulation in Neurotic Students: A Pilot Mindfulness-Based Intervention to Assess Its Effectiveness through Brain Signals and Behavioral Data. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 22(7), 2703. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22072703

 

Abstract

Neuroticism has recently received increased attention in the psychology field due to the finding of high implications of neuroticism on an individual’s life and broader public health. This study aims to investigate the effect of a brief 6-week breathing-based mindfulness intervention (BMI) on undergraduate neurotic students’ emotion regulation. We acquired data of their psychological states, physiological changes, and electroencephalogram (EEG), before and after BMI, in resting states and tasks. Through behavioral analysis, we found the students’ anxiety and stress levels significantly reduced after BMI, with p-values of 0.013 and 0.027, respectively. Furthermore, a significant difference between students in emotion regulation strategy, that is, suppression, was also shown. The EEG analysis demonstrated significant differences between students before and after MI in resting states and tasks. Fp1 and O2 channels were identified as the most significant channels in evaluating the effect of BMI. The potential of these channels for classifying (single-channel-based) before and after BMI conditions during eyes-opened and eyes-closed baseline trials were displayed by a good performance in terms of accuracy (~77%), sensitivity (76–80%), specificity (73–77%), and area-under-the-curve (AUC) (0.66–0.8) obtained by k-nearest neighbor (KNN) and support vector machine (SVM) algorithms. Mindfulness can thus improve the self-regulation of the emotional state of neurotic students based on the psychometric and electrophysiological analyses conducted in this study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9002961/

 

Internal are Superior of External Focused Meditation Techniques in Producing Relaxation

Internal are Superior of External Focused Meditation Techniques in Producing Relaxation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We all have our unique differences, and it’s important to celebrate those even when choosing a meditation technique. What works for one person may not work for another. We each have predispositions and lifestyle habits that make choosing a meditation technique an important process.” – Susi Amendola

 

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 meditation techniques that focus on internal experience and others that focus on external stimuli. It is not known which are best for inducing relaxation.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Retrospective Analysis of Three Focused Attention Meditation Techniques: Mantra, Breath, and External-Point Meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8967094/ ) Sharma and colleagues recruited healthy adults and had them perform mantra, breath focused, or external-point (eyes open) meditations for 3 minutes each. During the meditation the alpha rhythm in the electroencephalogram was measured as an index of achieving a calm state.

 

They found that the time spent in the calm state during meditation was significantly higher during mantra and breath focused meditations than during external-point meditation.  It has been previously established that the amount of alpha rhythm is reduced in the eyes open condition. So, the present study demonstrates that this is true for meditation also.

 

Hence it appears that keeping the eyes closed during meditation produces greater calm.

 

Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you? “It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice,” – Mira Dessy

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Sharma, K., Wernicke, A. G., Rahman, H., Potters, L., Sharma, G., & Parashar, B. (2022). A Retrospective Analysis of Three Focused Attention Meditation Techniques: Mantra, Breath, and External-Point Meditation. Cureus, 14(3), e23589. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.23589

 

Abstract

Objective

The goal of this study is to compare the effectiveness of three different meditation techniques (two internal focus techniques and one external focus technique) using a low-cost portable electroencephalography (EEG) device, namely, MUSE, for an objective comparison.

Methods

This is an IRB-approved retrospective study. All participants in the study were healthy adults. Each study participant (n = 34) was instructed to participate in three meditation sessions: mantra (internal), breath (internal), and external point. The MUSE brain-sensing headband (EEG) was used to document the “total time spent in the calm state” and the “total time spent in the calm or neutral state” (outcomes) in each three-minute session to conduct separate analyses for the meditation type. Separate generalized linear models (GLM) with unstructured covariance structures were used to examine the association between each outcome and the explanatory variable (meditation type). For all models, if there was a significant association between the outcome and the explanatory variable, pairwise comparisons were carried out using the Tukey-Kramer correction.

Results

The median time (in seconds) spent in the calm state while practicing mantra meditation was 131.5 (IQR: 94-168), while practicing breath meditation was 150 (IQR: 113-164), and while practicing external-point meditation was 100 (IQR: 62-126). Upon analysis, there was a significant association between the meditation type and the time spent in the calm state (p-value = 0.0006).

Conclusion

This is the first study comparing “internal” versus “external” meditation techniques using an objective measure. Our study shows the breath and mantra technique as superior to the external-point technique as regards time spent in the calm state. Additional research is needed using a combination of “EEG” and patient-reported surveys to compare various meditative practices. The findings from this study can help incorporate specific meditation practices in future mindfulness-based studies that are focused on healthcare settings and on impacting clinical outcomes, such as survival or disease outcomes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8967094/

Mindfulness Changes Neural Activity and Improves Major Depressive Disorder

Mindfulness Changes Neural Activity and Improves Major Depressive Disorder

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“People at risk for depression are dealing with a lot of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs about themselves and this can easily slide into a depressive relapse. . . MBCT helps them to recognize that’s happening, engage with it in a different way and respond to it with equanimity and compassion.” – Willem Kuyken

 

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

 

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

 

The most commonly used mindfulness technique for the treatment of depression is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting and walking meditation and body scan, and cognitive therapy to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. MBCT has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant drugs in relieving the symptoms of depression and preventing depression reoccurrence and relapse. In addition, it appears to be effective as either a supplement to or a replacement for these drugs. It is not known how MBCT produces its effects on major depression.

 

One way to observe the effects of MBCT on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. Changes in these brain activities can be compared during different depths of meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Recurrent MDD Patients With Residual Symptoms: Alterations in Resting-State Theta Oscillation Dynamics Associated With Changes in Depression and Rumination.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8936084/ ) Wang and colleagues recruited patients with major depressive disorder being treated with drugs but with residual symptoms. They were provided with an 8-week program of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Before and after training they were measured for mindfulness, depression, and rumination and had their resting state electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded.

 

After completing Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) there were significant reductions in depression which produced an 88% remission rate. There were also significant increases in mindfulness and reductions in brooding rumination. In addition, there was a significant increase in the theta rhythm power in the electroencephalogram (EEG). Finally, the greater the increase in theta power the greater the reductions in depression and rumination.

 

Hence, they found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is effective in treating depression even in patients under treatment with drugs. They also found that these improvements were related to increased theta power in the electroencephalogram (EEG). So, MBCT appears to change brain activity along with depression. The changes in the neural activity may be a mechanism by which MBCT helps improve depression symptoms.

 

mindfulness is added to the standard depression treatment protocols, relapse rates decline.” – Sara Altshul

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Wang, J., Ren, F., Gao, B., & Yu, X. (2022). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Recurrent MDD Patients With Residual Symptoms: Alterations in Resting-State Theta Oscillation Dynamics Associated With Changes in Depression and Rumination. Frontiers in psychiatry, 13, 818298. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.818298

 

Abstract

Many patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) suffer from residual symptoms. Rumination is a specific known risk factor for the onset, severity, prolongation, and relapse of MDD. This study aimed to examine the efficacy and EEG substrates of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in alleviating depression and rumination in an MDD population with residual symptoms. We recruited 26 recurrent MDD individuals who had residual symptoms with their current antidepressants to participate in the 8-week MBCT intervention. We evaluated the efficacy and changes in the dynamics of resting-state theta rhythm after the intervention, as well as the associations between theta alterations and improvements in depression and rumination. The participants showed reduced depression, enhanced adaptive reflective rumination, and increased theta power and phase synchronization after MBCT. The increased theta-band phase synchronizations between the right occipital regions and the right prefrontal, central, and parietal regions were associated with reduced depression, while the increase in theta power in the left parietal region was associated with improvements in reflective rumination. MBCT could alleviate depression and enhance adaptive, reflective rumination in recurrent MDD individuals with residual symptoms through the modulation of theta dynamics in specific brain regions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8936084/

 

Depth of Meditation is Associated with Different Levels of Brain Electrical Activity

Depth of Meditation is Associated with Different Levels of Brain Electrical Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Neuroscientific studies, particularly EEG, are revealing much about the neural correlates of meditation in the hopes of understanding why it has therapeutic value, and as a way to probe the nature of self and consciousness.” – Aaron Nitzkin

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. One way to observe the effects of meditation on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp.

 

The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. Changes in these brain activities can be compared during different depths of meditation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Alpha and theta oscillations are inversely related to progressive levels of meditation depth.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8633885/ ) Katyal and Goldin recruited healthy adult participants who were long-term meditators and demographically matched meditation naïve participants. They had their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded during 4 blocks of either listening to a story, listening to music, or 2 6-minute blocks of meditation. They self-reported their depth of meditation after each block.

 

They found, not surprisingly, that in comparison to the meditation naïve participants, the experienced meditators had significantly greater depth of meditation. They also found that as the depth of meditation increased the alpha rhythm in the EEG significantly increased while the theta rhythm significantly decreased. This was true for both groups.

 

The alpha rhythm has been associated with relaxation and a suppression of mind wandering and distraction. Similarly, the greater the depth of meditation the less distraction and mind wandering. Thus, the increase in the alpha rhythm with increasing depth of meditation is reasonable and completely predictable. The theta rhythm is associated with dreaminess and sleep. That the theta rhythm is lowest with higher depths of meditation makes sense as depth is associated with alert awareness. Hence, the brain wave patterns seen during meditation are reflective of the depth of meditation.

 

So, depth of meditation is associated with different levels of brain electrical activity

 

neurocognitive mechanisms that are present during both self-generated thought and controlled cognitive processes (i.e. the integration between the memory and executive components of cognition via alpha:theta cross-frequency coupling) are minimized during meditative practices.” – Julio Rodriguez-Larios

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Katyal, S., & Goldin, P. (2021). Alpha and theta oscillations are inversely related to progressive levels of meditation depth. Neuroscience of consciousness, 2021(1), niab042. https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/niab042

 

Highlights

  • Our study reveals neurophysiological changes that occur as meditation experiences become deeper.
  • Alpha and theta brainwaves are two reliable neurophysiological signatures of meditation.
  • Theta activity increased with more distractions and was suppressed during deeper experiences.
  • Increased alpha activity was related to fewer distractions and more deeper meditation experiences.
  • Deeper meditation experiences appear to involve a suppression of executive neural processing.

Abstract

Meditation training is proposed to enhance mental well-being by modulating neural activity, particularly alpha and theta brain oscillations, and autonomic activity. Although such enhancement also depends on the quality of meditation, little is known about how these neural and physiological changes relate to meditation quality. One model characterizes meditation quality as five increasing levels of ‘depth’: hindrances, relaxation, concentration, transpersonal qualities and nonduality. We investigated the neural oscillatory (theta, alpha, beta and gamma) and physiological (respiration rate, heart rate and heart rate variability) correlates of the self-reported meditation depth in long-term meditators (LTMs) and meditation-naïve controls (CTLs). To determine the neural and physiological correlates of meditation depth, we modelled the change in the slope of the relationship between self-reported experiential degree at each of the five depth levels and the multiple neural and physiological measures. CTLs reported experiencing more ‘hindrances’ than LTMs, while LTMs reported more ‘transpersonal qualities’ and ‘nonduality’ compared to CTLs, confirming the experiential manipulation of meditation depth. We found that in both groups, theta (4–6 Hz) and alpha (7–13 Hz) oscillations were related to meditation depth in a precisely opposite manner. The theta amplitude positively correlated with ‘hindrances’ and increasingly negatively correlated with increasing meditation depth levels. Alpha amplitude negatively correlated with ‘hindrances’ and increasingly positively with increasing depth levels. The increase in the inverse association between theta and meditation depth occurred over different scalp locations in the two groups—frontal midline in LTMs and frontal lateral in CTLs—possibly reflecting the downregulation of two different aspects of executive processing—monitoring and attention regulation, respectively—during deep meditation. These results suggest a functional dissociation of the two classical neural signatures of meditation training, namely, alpha and theta oscillations. Moreover, while essential for overcoming ‘hindrances’, executive neural processing appears to be downregulated during deeper meditation experiences.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8633885/

 

Improve Neuropsychological Disorders with Yoga

Improve Neuropsychological Disorders with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

Mindfulness training and yoga practices have been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. They have also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There has accumulated a large amount of research on the effectiveness of yoga practice for the treatment of a variety of physical and mental issues. Hence, it would be useful to summarize what has been learned.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, improve neuropsychological disorders with yoga.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

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

 

Meditation Effects on Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation are Associated with Changes in Brain Activity

Meditation Effects on Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation are Associated with Changes in Brain Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the meditation intervention had large varying effects on EEG spectra, . . Findings suggest that brief guided meditation intervention may offer positive and immediate health benefits to help combat stress.” – Peta Stapleton

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There are several ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. One way to observe the effects of meditation on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp.

 

The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. There needs to be further research on how changes in brain activity progress a meditation practice develops.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Associated With Resting-State Electroencephalograms Dynamics in Novice Practitioners via Mindful Breathing and Body-Scan.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1765474_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211102_arts_A ) Ng and colleagues recruited meditation naive healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weekly 2,5 hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The intervention consisted of meditation, body scan, and yoga along with group discussion and home practice. Before and after the 8-week program they were measured for mindfulness and emotion regulation and underwent simultaneous brain scanning with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and brain electrical activity measurement with electroencephalogram (EEG). The scanning occurred with 5-minute epochs of rest, mindful breathing, body scan, and rest during which they were asked to press a button whenever their mind wandered.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significantly greater levels of mindfulness and emotion regulation. In the electroencephalogram (EEG) after MBSR training there were significant increases in power in the beta and gamma bands and decreases in the delta band in the frontal and parietal cortex regardless of condition. They also found that in comparison to the resting condition during body scan the MBSR group had significantly lower power in the delta, beta, and gamma bands. Changes in the EEG powers were significantly related to changes in mindfulness and emotion regulation.

 

The present results are similar to previous findings that mindfulness training produces significant improvements in mindfulness and emotion regulation. But the present findings are unique in showing that these changes are associated with changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) produced by mindfulness training. Since the participants were meditation naïve at the beginning, these findings document how mindfulness training may produce its benefits. They suggest that mindfulness training alters brain processing increasing spectral power in the brain and this produces changes in psychological processes.

 

Hence, meditation effects on mindfulness and emotion regulation are associated with changes in brain activity.

 

Many studies on mindfulness meditation have linked lower frequency alpha waves, as well as theta waves, to meditation.” – Wikipedia

 

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

 

Ng H-YH, Wu CW, Huang F-Y, Cheng Y-T, Guu S-F, Huang C-M, Hsu C-F, Chao Y-P, Jung T-P and Chuang C-H (2021) Mindfulness Training Associated With Resting-State Electroencephalograms Dynamics in Novice Practitioners via Mindful Breathing and Body-Scan. Front. Psychol. 12:748584. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584

 

Objectives: Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been proven to improve mental health and quality of life. This study examined how mindfulness training and various types of mindfulness practices altered brain activity.

Methods: Specifically, the spectral powers of scalp electroencephalography of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) group (n=17) who underwent an 8-week MBSR training—including mindful breathing and body-scan—were evaluated and compared with those of the waitlist controls (n=14).

Results: Empirical results indicated that the post-intervention effect of MBSR significantly elevated the resting-state beta powers and reduced resting-state delta powers in both practices; such changes were not observed in the waitlist control. Compared with mindful breathing, body-scanning resulted in an overall decline in electroencephalograms (EEG) spectral powers at both delta and low-gamma bands among trained participants.

Conclusion: Together with our preliminary data of expert mediators, the aforementioned spectral changes were salient after intervention, but mitigated along with expertise. Additionally, after receiving training, the MBSR group’s mindfulness and emotion regulation levels improved significantly, which were correlated with the EEG spectral changes in the theta, alpha, and low-beta bands. The results supported that MBSR might function as a unique internal processing tool that involves increased vigilant capability and induces alterations similar to other cognitive training.

 

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1765474_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211102_arts_A

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“the meditation intervention had large varying effects on EEG spectra, . . Findings suggest that brief guided meditation intervention may offer positive and immediate health benefits to help combat stress.” – Peta Stapleton

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. There are several ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. One way to observe the effects of meditation on neural activity is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp.

 

The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 15-25 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 35-45 cycles per second band. There needs to be further research on how changes in brain activity progress a meditation practice develops.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Associated With Resting-State Electroencephalograms Dynamics in Novice Practitioners via Mindful Breathing and Body-Scan.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1765474_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211102_arts_A ) Ng and colleagues recruited meditation naive healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weekly 2,5 hour sessions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The intervention consisted of meditation, body scan, and yoga along with group discussion and home practice. Before and after the 8-week program they were measured for mindfulness and emotion regulation and underwent simultaneous brain scanning with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and brain electrical activity measurement with electroencephalogram (EEG). The scanning occurred with 5-minute epochs of rest, mindful breathing, body scan, and rest during which they were asked to press a button whenever their mind wandered.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the group that received Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significantly greater levels of mindfulness and emotion regulation. In the electroencephalogram (EEG) after MBSR training there were significant increases in power in the beta and gamma bands and decreases in the delta band in the frontal and parietal cortex regardless of condition. They also found that in comparison to the resting condition during body scan the MBSR group had significantly lower power in the delta, beta, and gamma bands. Changes in the EEG powers were significantly related to changes in mindfulness and emotion regulation.

 

The present results are similar to previous findings that mindfulness training produces significant improvements in mindfulness and emotion regulation. But the present findings are unique in showing that these changes are associated with changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) produced by mindfulness training. Since the participants were meditation naïve at the beginning, these findings document how mindfulness training may produce its benefits. They suggest that mindfulness training alters brain processing increasing spectral power in the brain and this produces changes in psychological processes.

 

Hence, meditation effects on mindfulness and emotion regulation are associated with changes in brain activity.

 

Many studies on mindfulness meditation have linked lower frequency alpha waves, as well as theta waves, to meditation.” – Wikipedia

 

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

 

Ng H-YH, Wu CW, Huang F-Y, Cheng Y-T, Guu S-F, Huang C-M, Hsu C-F, Chao Y-P, Jung T-P and Chuang C-H (2021) Mindfulness Training Associated With Resting-State Electroencephalograms Dynamics in Novice Practitioners via Mindful Breathing and Body-Scan. Front. Psychol. 12:748584. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584

 

Objectives: Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been proven to improve mental health and quality of life. This study examined how mindfulness training and various types of mindfulness practices altered brain activity.

Methods: Specifically, the spectral powers of scalp electroencephalography of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) group (n=17) who underwent an 8-week MBSR training—including mindful breathing and body-scan—were evaluated and compared with those of the waitlist controls (n=14).

Results: Empirical results indicated that the post-intervention effect of MBSR significantly elevated the resting-state beta powers and reduced resting-state delta powers in both practices; such changes were not observed in the waitlist control. Compared with mindful breathing, body-scanning resulted in an overall decline in electroencephalograms (EEG) spectral powers at both delta and low-gamma bands among trained participants.

Conclusion: Together with our preliminary data of expert mediators, the aforementioned spectral changes were salient after intervention, but mitigated along with expertise. Additionally, after receiving training, the MBSR group’s mindfulness and emotion regulation levels improved significantly, which were correlated with the EEG spectral changes in the theta, alpha, and low-beta bands. The results supported that MBSR might function as a unique internal processing tool that involves increased vigilant capability and induces alterations similar to other cognitive training.

 

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.748584/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1765474_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20211102_arts_A

Reduce Opioid Dosage in Chronic Pain Patients with Mindfulness

Reduce Opioid Dosage in Chronic Pain Patients with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It’s clear that when it comes to tackling pain, it takes all of the tools in the toolkit. And when it comes to opioids, the approach needn’t be all or nothing. . .  the combination of medicine plus mind-body therapies works best.” – Allison Aubrey

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain. There is an accumulating volume of research findings that demonstrate that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain and reducing opioid use. How mindfulness works to produce these benefits is not known.

 

In today’s Research News article “Endogenous theta stimulation during meditation predicts reduced opioid dosing following treatment with Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8026958/ ) Hudak and colleagues recruited veterans with chronic pain and at least 30 days of opioid use and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weekly 2-hour sessions of either supportive group psychotherapy or Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) involving mindful breathing and body scan meditations, cognitive reappraisal to decrease negative emotions and craving, and savoring to augment natural reward processing and positive emotion. All participants completed a lab-based mindfulness session while simultaneously having their Electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded. During the programs and for 4 months after they reported their daily opioid use.

 

They found in comparison to baseline and the supportive group psychotherapy group that during the meditation the Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) group had significantly greater power in the EEG of the frontal cortex in the alpha (9-13 cycles per second) and theta (4-8 cycles per second) bands and also theta spectral coherence. They also found that the MORE group had significantly greater reductions in opioid use over the treatment period. In addition. They found that the greater the increase in theta band power in the EEG the greater the reduction in opioid use and this continued for 4 months after the program. Finally, they found that MORE was associated with reduced opioid use both directly and also indirectly by being associated with increased frontal theta power.

 

These findings suggest that Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) is effective in reducing opioid dosage in chronic pain patients. This is in line with previous findings that mindfulness training produces reductions in opioid dependence. Mindfulness training has also been shown to alter brain activity and the present findings indicate that theta power in the frontal lobe is a marker of these changes. Finally, the results suggest that MORE directly reduces opioid dependence and at the same time increase brain activity which is associated with further reductions in opioid use.

 

So, reduce opioid dosage in chronic pain patients with mindfulness.

 

We also teach people how to use mindfulness to reclaim a sense of healthy pleasures, joy, and meaning in life, in spite of pain.” – Eric Garland

 

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

 

Hudak, J., Hanley, A. W., Marchand, W. R., Nakamura, Y., Yabko, B., & Garland, E. L. (2021). Endogenous theta stimulation during meditation predicts reduced opioid dosing following treatment with Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(4), 836–843. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00831-4

 

Abstract

Veterans experience chronic pain at greater rates than the rest of society and are more likely to receive long-term opioid therapy (LTOT), which, at high doses, is theorized to induce maladaptive neuroplastic changes that attenuate self-regulatory capacity and exacerbate opioid dose escalation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to modulate frontal midline theta (FMT) and alpha oscillations that are linked with marked alterations in self-referential processing. These adaptive neural oscillatory changes may promote reduced opioid use and remediate the neural dysfunction occasioned by LTOT. In this study, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to assess the effects of a mindfulness-based, cognitive training intervention for opioid misuse, Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), on alpha and theta power and FMT coherence during meditation. We then examined whether these neural effects were associated with reduced opioid dosing and changes in self-referential processing. Before and after 8 weeks of MORE or a supportive psychotherapy control, veterans receiving LTOT (N = 62) practiced mindfulness meditation while EEG was recorded. Participants treated with MORE demonstrated significantly increased alpha and theta power (with larger theta power effect sizes) as well as increased FMT coherence relative to those in the control condition—neural changes that were associated with altered self-referential processing. Crucially, MORE significantly reduced opioid dose over time, and this dose reduction was partially statistically mediated by changes in frontal theta power. Study results suggest that mindfulness meditation practice may produce endogenous theta stimulation in the prefrontal cortex, thereby enhancing inhibitory control over opioid dose escalation behaviors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8026958/

 

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/