Zen meditation: an integration of current evidence.
ABSTRACT Despite the growing interest in the neurobiological and clinical correlates of many meditative practices, in particular mindfulness meditations, no review has specifically focused on current evidence on electroencephalographic, neuroimaging, biological, and clinical evidence about an important traditional practice, Zen meditation.
A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, the ISI Web of Knowledge, the Cochrane collaboration database, and references of selected articles. Randomized controlled and cross-sectional studies with controls published in English prior to May 2008 were included.
Electroencephalographic studies on Zen meditation found increased alpha and theta activity, generally related to relaxation, in many brain regions, including the frontal cortex. Theta activity in particular seemed to be related to the degree of experience, being greater in expert practitioners and advanced masters. Moreover, Zen meditation practice could protect from cognitive decline usually associated with age and enhance antioxidant activity. From a clinical point of view, Zen meditation was found to reduce stress and blood pressure, and be efficacious for a variety of conditions, as suggested by positive findings in therapists and musicians.
To date, actual evidence about Zen meditation is scarce and highlights the necessity of further investigations. Comparison with further active treatments, explanation of possible mechanisms of action, and the limitations of current evidence are discussed.
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ABSTRACT: The increasing number and sophistication of available psychotherapies suggests that a critical appraisal of the methodological issues of psychotherapy studies is highly needed. Several key questions regarding the efficacy of a given intervention, the understanding of whether positive effects observed following the delivery of a psychotherapeutic intervention are specifically attributable to the intervention itself or to other "non specific" factors, such as benefit expectations, therapist attention and support, and the possibility of improving psychotherapy research need an answer. This, in turn, could provide clinicians with more rigorous information about psychotherapy outcomes and could properly address several shortcomings that are frequently observed in current psychotherapy studies. Accordingly, in this editorial I will highlight some of the most important critical issues that a well designed psychotherapy study should take into account, including the need for appropriate control groups, appropriate randomization and blinding procedures, and the importance of performing appropriately powered studies that include a sufficiently long follow-up period. Finally, I will build on my expertise in the field of mindfulness based interventions, in particular mindfulness based stress reduction and mindfulness based cognitive therapy, to show how such issues have been and can be successfully implemented in the design of future psychotherapy studies.09/2011; 1(1):4-11. DOI:10.5662/wjm.v1.i1.4
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