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/

Forest Walking and Forest Qigong Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly

Forest Walking and Forest Qigong Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“forest bathing has received increasing attention due to its health-promoting effects, including enhancing immune functions and decreasing blood pressure in hypertension patients, as well as stress relief effects.” – Genxiang Mao,

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve mood. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if mindfulness training occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly improve the effectiveness of mindfulness practice. In fact, being in nature has been shown to improve psychological health.

 

Qigong has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Qigong  practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Qigong has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the ability of Qigong training particularly when practiced in nature to improve well-being in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psycho-Electrophysiological Benefits of Forest Therapies Focused on Qigong and Walking with Elderly Individuals.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999348/ ) Yi and colleagues recruited healthy elderly (65 years of age and older) participants and assigned them to one of 3 conditions; no-treatment control, forest walking, or forest Qigong. The forest programs were 2 hours per session twice per week for 6 weeks and included warm-up exercises, stretching, physio-cognitive play, and cool-down along with 50 minutes of either forest walking, or forest Qigong. They were measured before and after training for cognitive impairment, depression, and quality of life. They also had the electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (EKG) recorded. Bioimpedance was used to determine body composition and nutritional metabolism.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control condition, the forest qigong group had a significant decrease in depression while the forest walking group had a significant decrease in cognitive impairment and increase in quality of life. In the EEG, the forest walking group had significant increases in Alpha and Beta rhythm power and a significant decrease in low frequency heart rate variability after training while the control and forest qigong groups did not. In addition, the forest qigong group had a significant increase in the upper body bioimpedance phase angle while the forest walking group had a significant increase in the lower body bioimpedance phase angle.

 

Bioimpedance phase angle is an indicator of the metabolic nutrition of the muscles. So, the practice of qigong in the forest appears to increase the metabolic nutritional status of the upper body while walking in the forest appears to increase the metabolic nutritional status of the lower body. This is not surprising as qigong involves frequent arm movements while walking involves more leg movements. Low frequency heart rate variability is an indicator of sympathetic nervous system activity and its decrease in the forest walking group suggests that walking in the forest is physiologically relaxing, reducing activating sympathetic activity. Finally, EEG power is indicative of brain information processing and its increase with forest walking is indicative of an increase in information (cognitive) processing.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that walking in the forest and qigong in the forest have different effects on elderly individuals. Where forest qigong appears to be superior for decreasing depression and upper body metabolism, forest walking appears to improve cognitive ability, lower body metabolism, and physiological relaxation. Hence qigong in the forest is superior for emotional health while walking in the forest is superior for cognitive health. This suggests that the combination of qigong and walking in the forest may produce better well-being for elderly individual.

 

So, forest walking and forest qigong improve cognitive function in the elderly.

 

Forest bathing, also known as forest therapy or shinrin-yoku in Japanese, is an evidence-based practice of connecting to nature as a way to heal.” – Credible Mind

 

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

 

Yi, J., Kim, S. G., Khil, T., Shin, M., You, J. H., Jeon, S., Park, G. H., Jeong, A. Y., Lim, Y., Kim, K., Kim, J., Kang, B., Lee, J., Park, J. H., Ku, B., Choi, J., Cha, W., Lee, H. J., Shin, C., Shin, W., … Kim, J. U. (2021). Psycho-Electrophysiological Benefits of Forest Therapies Focused on Qigong and Walking with Elderly Individuals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 3004. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063004

 

Abstract

We developed two distinct forest therapy programs (FTPs) and compared their effects on dementia prevention and related health problems for older adults. One was focused on Qigong practice in the forest (QP) and the other involved active walking in the forest (WP). Both FTPs consisted of twelve 2-h sessions over six weeks and were conducted in an urban forest. We obtained data from 25, 18, and 26 participants aged 65 years or above for the QP, WP, and control groups, respectively. Neuropsychological scores via cognition (MoCA), geriatric depression (GDS) and quality of life (EQ-5D), and electrophysiological variables (electroencephalography, bioimpedance, and heart rate variability) were measured. We analyzed the intervention effects with a generalized linear model. Compared to the control group, the WP group showed benefits in terms of neurocognition (increases in the MoCA score, and alpha and beta band power values in the electroencephalogram), sympathetic nervous activity, and bioimpedance in the lower body. On the other hand, the QP group showed alleviated depression and an increased bioimpedance phase angle in the upper body. In conclusion, both active walking and Qigong in the forest were shown to have distinctive neuropsychological and electrophysiological benefits, and both had beneficial effects in terms of preventing dementia and relieving related health problems for elderly individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999348/

 

Meditation Reduces the Complexity of Brain Activity

Meditation Reduces the Complexity of Brain Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

What happens in your brain when you meditate. . . The overall difference is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would.” – Belle Beth Cooper

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Contrasting Electroencephalography-Derived Entropy and Neural Oscillations With Highly Skilled Meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8119624/ ) Young and colleagues recruited experienced meditators who engaged in six different meditation styles (shamatha, vipassana, zazen, dzogchen, tonglen, and visualization). They had on average 21,935 hours of meditation experience. The researchers then recorded the Electroencephalogram (EEG) while the meditators were thinking about their day and also during meditation practice. The EEG recordings were analyzed for entropy and their power spectra.

 

They found that tonglen and zazen meditators had the highest alpha rhythm power during meditation compared to other styles of meditation. But different styles had markedly different patterns. On the other hand, overall, with all meditation types there was a significant reduction in entropy of the brain activity during meditation.

 

The differences in the power spectrum observed with different meditation types probably reflects the different mental activity encouraged by the individual practices, On the other hand there were consistent findings with the entropy measures suggesting a common element of neural activity occurring with meditation regardless of its form.

 

Entropy of the pattern of Electroencephalogram (EEG) activity is a measure of the complexity of the activity. The reduction in entropy observed during meditation suggests that meditation is associated with a simplification of brain activity. This makes sense as during meditation attention is focused, reducing the variety of mental activity. Hence, the simplified mental experiences during meditation are reflected in a simplified neural activity.

 

So, meditation reduces the complexity of brain activity.

 

“It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation. You don’t have to consume as much energy at rest and you can more easily get yourself into a more relaxed state.” – Bin He

 

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

 

Jacob H. Young, Martha E. Arterberry, Joshua P. Martin. Contrasting Electroencephalography-Derived Entropy and Neural Oscillations With Highly Skilled Meditators. Front Hum Neurosci. 2021; 15: 628417. Published online 2021 Apr 30. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.628417

 

Abstract

Meditation is an umbrella term for a number of mental training practices designed to improve the monitoring and regulation of attention and emotion. Some forms of meditation are now being used for clinical intervention. To accompany the increased clinical interest in meditation, research investigating the neural basis of these practices is needed. A central hypothesis of contemplative neuroscience is that meditative states, which are unique on a phenomenological level, differ on a neurophysiological level. To identify the electrophysiological correlates of meditation practice, the electrical brain activity of highly skilled meditators engaging in one of six meditation styles (shamatha, vipassana, zazen, dzogchen, tonglen, and visualization) was recorded. A mind-wandering task served as a control. Lempel–Ziv complexity showed differences in nonlinear brain dynamics (entropy) during meditation compared with mind wandering, suggesting that meditation, regardless of practice, affects neural complexity. In contrast, there were no differences in power spectra at six different frequency bands, likely due to the fact that participants engaged in different meditation practices. Finally, exploratory analyses suggest neurological differences among meditation practices. These findings highlight the importance of studying the electroencephalography (EEG) correlates of different meditative practices.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8119624/

 

Improve the Brains Ability to Directly Control Computers with Mindfulness

Improve the Brains Ability to Directly Control Computers with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation has been widely practiced for well-being and improving health,” said He. Our work demonstrates that it can also enhance a person’s mental power for mind control, and may facilitate broad use of noninvasive brain-computer interface technology.” – Bin He

 

It has long been a dream to develop methods to allow the brain to directly alter external devices. The efforts have been focused on developing a brain-computer interface such that recorded electrical activity of the brain is interfaced with a computer allowing control of the computer by the activity. It is hypothesized that a brain computer interface might be able to provide an alternative method to control muscles in patients with severe neuromuscular diseases.

 

Brain-computer interface methods have been developed but suffer from long training times before the participant is capable of affecting the computer activity. Meditation has been shown to alter the activity of the brain. Meditation training may make the individual better at controlling their brain activity. Hence, an interesting research question is to investigate whether meditation training will improve the ability to learn to control a computer with the brain’s electrical activity.

 

In today’s Research News article “Frontolimbic alpha activity tracks intentional rest BCI control improvement through mindfulness meditation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7994299/ ) Jiang and colleagues recruited healthy adults without brain-computer interface experience and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. After training they all participated in 6 or 10 weekly, 1-hour, brain-computer interface training sessions. Their brain electrical activity was recorded with an electroencephalogram (EEG). The electrical activity occurring in the motor cortex was connected to a computer which moved a cursor over the screen. The participants were asked to try to move the cursor left or right by imagining opening and closing the left or right hand, to move the cursor up by imagining opening and closing both hands and down by resting.

 

They found that compared to the wait-list control group the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group had significantly greater improvement in the brain-computer interface task over sessions. They also found that the MBSR group had significantly greater alpha rhythm (8-12 hz. in the EEG) power in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain. They also found that over training there was decreased frontolimbic connectivity in the MBSR group while the wait-list control group had greater connectivity. Finally, the greater the increase in alpha rhythm power in the MBSR group, the greater the increase in the brain-computer interface task performance over sessions.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training improves the individual’s ability to learn to control a computer with brain activity. Underlying this improved performance appears to be changes in the electrical activity of the brain at rest and during task performance. Mindfulness training is known to improve attention and reduce mind wandering. This may be how mindfulness training improves the individual’s ability to learn to control the computer with brain activity. It remains for future research to investigate this possibility.

 

So, improve the brains ability to directly control computers with mindfulness.

 

the emphasis on present-moment experience may allow expert meditators to self-regulate brain activity which could translate into enhanced [Brain-Computer Interface] control. Self-regulation supported by attentional control, emotional control, and self-awareness may additionally help users aim at a state of effortless relaxation, which has been hypothesized to improve [Brain-Computer Interface] control.” – James R. Stieger

 

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

 

Jiang, H., Stieger, J., Kreitzer, M. J., Engel, S., & He, B. (2021). Frontolimbic alpha activity tracks intentional rest BCI control improvement through mindfulness meditation. Scientific reports, 11(1), 6818. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86215-0

 

Abstract

Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) are capable of translating human intentions into signals controlling an external device to assist patients with severe neuromuscular disorders. Prior work has demonstrated that participants with mindfulness meditation experience evince improved BCI performance, but the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we conducted a large-scale longitudinal intervention study by training participants in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; a standardized mind–body awareness training intervention), and investigated whether and how short-term MBSR affected sensorimotor rhythm (SMR)-based BCI performance. We hypothesize that MBSR training improves BCI performance by reducing mind wandering and enhancing self-awareness during the intentional rest BCI control, which would mainly be reflected by modulations of default-mode network and limbic network activity. We found that MBSR training significantly improved BCI performance compared to controls and these behavioral enhancements were accompanied by increased frontolimbic alpha activity (9–15 Hz) and decreased alpha connectivity among limbic network, frontoparietal network, and default-mode network. Furthermore, the modulations of frontolimbic alpha activity were positively correlated with the duration of meditation experience and the extent of BCI performance improvement. Overall, these data suggest that mindfulness allows participant to reach a state where they can modulate frontolimbic alpha power and improve BCI performance for SMR-based BCI control.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7994299/