The neuroscience of meditation scientific american pdf

This article has multiple issues. The neuroscience of meditation scientific american pdf consisting only of original research should be removed.

In recent years, these studies have increasingly involved the use of modern scientific techniques and instruments, such as fMRI and EEG which are able to directly observe brain physiology and neural activity in living subjects, either during the act of meditation itself, or before and after a meditation effort, thus allowing linkages to be established between meditative practice and changes in brain structure or function. Yet, many of the early studies were flawed and thus yielded unreliable results. Contemporary studies have attempted to address many of these flaws with the hope of guiding current research into a more fruitful path. In 2013, researchers at Johns Hopkins identified 47 studies that qualify as well-designed and therefore reliable. Based on these studies, they concluded that there is moderate evidence that meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and pain, but there is no evidence that meditation is more effective than active treatment.

Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early 2014. A previous study commissioned by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that meditation interventions reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. A recent meta analysis by Hilton et al. 30 randomized controlled trials found high quality evidence for improvement in depressive symptoms. Some studies suggest that mindfulness meditation contributes to a more coherent and healthy sense of self and identity, when considering aspects such as sense of responsibility, authenticity, compassion, self-acceptance and character.

In the relatively new field of western psychological mindfulness, researchers attempt to define and measure the results of mindfulness primarily through controlled, randomised studies of mindfulness intervention on various dependent variables. The participants in mindfulness interventions measure many of the outcomes of such interventions subjectively. Other neural changes resulting from MM may increase the efficiency of attentional control. Mindfulness meditation also appears to bring about favorable structural changes in the brain. One recent study found a significant cortical thickness increase in individuals who underwent a brief -8 weeks- MBSR training program and that this increase was coupled with a significant reduction of several psychological indices related to worry, state anxiety, depression. Another study describes how mindfulness based interventions target neurocognitive mechanisms of addiction at the attention-appraisal-emotion interface.

A meta-analysis by Fox et al. 21 brain imaging studies found consistent differences in the region of the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions associated with body awareness. In terms of effect size the mean effect was rated as moderate. A follow up by Fox et al. 78 functional neuro-imaging studies suggests that different meditation styles are reliably associated with different brain activity. Activations in some brain regions are usually accompanied by deactivation in others. This finding suggests that meditation research must put emphasis on comparing practices from the same style of meditation, for example results from studies investigating focused attention methods cannot be compared to results from open monitoring approaches.

Psychological and Buddhist conceptualisations of mindfulness both highlight awareness and attention training as key components, in which levels of mindfulness can be cultivated with practise of mindfulness meditation. Open monitoring meditation does not involve focus on a specific object, and instead awareness is grounded in the perceptual features of one’s environment. Focused attention meditation is typically practiced first to increase the ability to enhance attentional stability, and awareness of mental states with the goal being to transition to open monitoring meditation practise that emphasizes the ability to monitor moment-by-moment changes in experience, without a focus of attention to maintain. Tasks of sustained attention relate to vigilance and the preparedness that aids completing a particular task goal. Mindfulness meditators have demonstrated superior performance when the stimulus to be detected in a task was unexpected, relative to when it was expected. This suggests that attention resources were more readily available in order to perform well in the task. This was despite not receiving a visual cue to aid performance.

ERP amplitude decreased in a group of participants that completed a mindfulness retreat. The incidence of reduced attentional blink effect relates to an increase in detectability of a second target. This may have been due to a greater ability to allocate attentional resources for detecting the second target, reflected in a reduced P3b amplitude. A greater degree of attentional resources may also be reflected in faster response times in task performance, as was found for participants with higher levels of mindfulness experience. Selective attention as linked with the orientation network, is involved in selecting the relevant stimuli to attend to. The ANT task is a general applicable task designed to test the three attention networks, in which participants are required to determine the direction of a central arrow on a computer screen. Efficiency in orienting that represent the capacity to selectively attend to stimuli was calculated by examining changes in the reaction time that accompanied cues indicating where the target would occur relative to the aid of no cues.