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Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem

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Abstract

Extensive practice involving sustained attention can lead to changes in brain structure. Here, we report evidence of structural differences in the lower brainstem of participants engaged in the long-term practice of meditation. Using magnetic resonance imaging, we observed higher gray matter density in lower brain stem regions of experienced meditators compared with age-matched nonmeditators. Our findings show that long-term practitioners of meditation have structural differences in brainstem regions concerned with cardiorespiratory control. This could account for some of the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic effects and traits, as well as the cognitive, emotional, and immunoreactive impact reported in several studies of different meditation practices.

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... Thus, they conclude that the thickness of the occipito-temporal visual cortex and the insula increases with the amount of meditation practice. In the Brodmann area (BA) 9/10 meditation seems to slow down cortical thinning, as 40-and 50-year old meditators compared to [20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30] year old meditators and controls showed the same average thickness. This could be linked to its function in integrating emotion and cognition. ...
... Very impressive was the finding of Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. (28), who showed structural changes especially in the brain stem of long-term meditators who practiced the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a meditation form which is dominated by open awareness. Those researchers applied VBM to the whole brain and evaluated the gray matter density and volume. ...
... As the superior longitudinal fasciculus passes through the inferior temporal gyrus, it can be well connected to the results of previous structural studies that show thickening in the temporal lobe or larger GMV in the inferior temporal gyrus, especially in the left hemisphere, which was also confirmed by this study with stronger effects for the left hemisphere (21), (24). As the uncinate fasciculus links the amygdala and the hippocampal gyrus to the orbitofrontal cortex the authors conclude that the finding of enlarged FA in this region is connected to larger GMV in the regions found in previous studies (28), (38). Fiber tracts connecting motor areas and somatosensory areas require further research, as remarked by the research group. ...
Here, we review the neurophysiological and neuroimaging changes that mediation induces in structural and functional MRI. The available evidence from structural studies suggests that mediation impacts neuronal plasticity and the functional MRI suggest that there are changes in gray and white matter in subjects who meditate. FMRI studies show that meditation is associated with decreased activity of default mode network and activation of brain regions involved in cognitive and emotional control. Together, the available imaging techniques have revealed that rather than impacting specific brain regions, meditation causes structural and functional changes in large-scale brain networks.
... Thus, they conclude that the thickness of the occipito-temporal visual cortex and the insula increases with the amount of meditation practice. In the Brodmann area (BA) 9/10 meditation seems to slow down cortical thinning, as 40-and 50-year old meditators compared to [20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30] year old meditators and controls showed the same average thickness. This could be linked to its function in integrating emotion and cognition. ...
... Very impressive was the finding of Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. (28), who showed structural changes especially in the brain stem of long-term meditators who practiced the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a meditation form which is dominated by open awareness. Those researchers applied VBM to the whole brain and evaluated the gray matter density and volume. ...
... As the superior longitudinal fasciculus passes through the inferior temporal gyrus, it can be well connected to the results of previous structural studies that show thickening in the temporal lobe or larger GMV in the inferior temporal gyrus, especially in the left hemisphere, which was also confirmed by this study with stronger effects for the left hemisphere (21), (24). As the uncinate fasciculus links the amygdala and the hippocampal gyrus to the orbitofrontal cortex the authors conclude that the finding of enlarged FA in this region is connected to larger GMV in the regions found in previous studies (28), (38). Fiber tracts connecting motor areas and somatosensory areas require further research, as remarked by the research group. ...
Article
Here, we review the neurophysiological and neuroimaging changes that mediation induces in structural and functional MRI. The available evidence from structural studies suggests that mediation impacts neuronal plasticity and the functional MRI suggest that there are changes in gray and white matter in subjects who meditate. FMRI studies show that meditation is associated with decreased activity of default mode network and activation of brain regions involved in cognitive and emotional control. Together, the available imaging techniques have revealed that rather than impacting specific brain regions, meditation causes structural and functional changes in large-scale brain networks.
... Thus, they conclude that the thickness of the occipito-temporal visual cortex and the insula increases with the amount of meditation practice. In the Brodmann area (BA) 9/10 meditation seems to slow down cortical thinning, as 40-and 50-year old meditators compared to [20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30] year old meditators and controls showed the same average thickness. This could be linked to its function in integrating emotion and cognition. ...
... Very impressive was the finding of Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. (28), who showed structural changes especially in the brain stem of long-term meditators who practiced the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a meditation form which is dominated by open awareness. Those researchers applied VBM to the whole brain and evaluated the gray matter density and volume. ...
... As the superior longitudinal fasciculus passes through the inferior temporal gyrus, it can be well connected to the results of previous structural studies that show thickening in the temporal lobe or larger GMV in the inferior temporal gyrus, especially in the left hemisphere, which was also confirmed by this study with stronger effects for the left hemisphere (21), (24). As the uncinate fasciculus links the amygdala and the hippocampal gyrus to the orbitofrontal cortex the authors conclude that the finding of enlarged FA in this region is connected to larger GMV in the regions found in previous studies (28), (38). Fiber tracts connecting motor areas and somatosensory areas require further research, as remarked by the research group. ...
Chapter
Although self-knowledge and behavior training have been substantial parts of Yoga for many centuries, neuroscience approach towards the effects of Yoga on cognition and brain functioning/structure is a pretty new field of research. As technology advances, new technical support is gained to investigate long ago experienced traditional Yoga practices. To the extent Yoga gains more supporters all over the world, growing interest arises from many laboratories and research centers in unraveling the “mysteries” surrounding its techniques, making this way a bridge between tradition and science.
... In fact, recent advances in neuroscience and neuroplasticity 2 (Doty, 2016;Goleman and Davidson, 2017;Lazar et al., 2005;Luders et al., 2009;Tang et al., 2012;Valk et al., 2017aValk et al., , 2017bVestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009), psychiatry (Hölzel et al., 2011), (eco)psychology (Koger, 2015) and education (Powietrzynska et al., 2015) suggest that mindfulness can open new pathways towards achieving sustainability. Mindfulness is generally defined as intentional, non-judgmental attentiveness to the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). ...
... Related results suggest that mindfulness may support a fundamental shift in the way we think about-and ultimately act on-local and global economic, social, and ecological crises (Carroll, 2016;Ericson et al., 2014;Scharmer, 2009;Wamsler et al., 2017). Different studies have found that mindfulness training changes for instance the physical structure of the brain and produces an increase in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, perspective taking and response control (Hölzel et al., 2011;Luders et al., 2009;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Others have reported on the role of mindfulness for developing psychological resilience (the ability to rebound after adversity) (Chen, n.d.;Powietrzynska et al., 2015;Thompson et al., 2011) and compassion for others and the environment (Condon et al., 2013;Ericson et al., 2014). ...
Article
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Growing globalisation and climate change are challenging the sustainability of our societies. It is now clear that climate change and its devastating impacts cannot be resolved by new technology or governance alone. They require a broader, cultural shift. As a result, the role of human beings' 'inner dimensions' and related transformations is attracting increased attention from researchers. Recent advances in neuroscience suggest for instance that mindfulness can open new pathways towards sustainability. However, the role of mindfulness in climate adaptation has been largely ignored. This paper is the first exploratory empirical investigation into linking individuals' intrinsic mindfulness (as opposed to outside mindfulness interventions) to pro-and reactive climate adaptation. Based on a survey of citizens at risk from severe climate events, we explore if, and how individual mindfulness is correlated with climate adaptation at different scales. The results show that individual mindfulness coincides with higher motivation to take climate adaptation actions or to support them, especially actions that are 'other-focused' or support pro-environmental behaviour. Mindfulness may also corroborate the acknowledgement of climate change and associated risk perception, and it may steer people away from fatalistic attitudes. We conclude with a call for more research into the relationship between human beings' inner dimensions and climate adaptation in the wider public domain.
... The practice of yoga has been correlated with greater cortical thickness and gray-matter concentration in brain areas associated with arousal, mood, memory, and cognition and with functional attenuation of areas related to negative emotional processing, including the amygdala. [3][4][5] Changes in brain chemistry and selective neuronal firing elevate mood by enhancing release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Decreased stimulation of brain basal areas associated with negative emotions and stress may moderate activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which fosters sympathetic discharges that release a cascade of hormones that initiate the "fight-or-flight" response. ...
... [9][10][11] Yoga and meditation appear to influence the medulla oblongata, a brain-stem structure that contains a central vagal relay station with thousands of neurons. This neuronal station is instrumental in regulating heart rate and respiration and is modulated by the parasympathetic discharges seen in long-term yoga practitioners, [4] although details about relevant neural pathways remain to be delineated. Yoga elevates mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, which promotes the synthesis of proteins necessary for synapse formation and maturation; mTOR-dependent translational cascade may be the final pathway representing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. ...
Article
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Yoga is an ancient Indian technique of healthy living. Numerous studies have corroborated yoga's beneficial effects, including a favorable influence on autonomic function and negative emotions. Extensive research in the last few decades has revealed the critical role that yoga can play in eradicating stress. This has laid to the foundation for a scientific understanding of pathophysiological changes attributed to stress, particularly at the molecular and genetic levels. This primarily has helped understand the epigenetic and genetic mechanism at play to induce and alleviate stress, particularly those related to emotional aberrations. As research has indicated, negative emotions are translated into vascular inflammation appropriately accentuated by a sympathetic predominant autonomic function. This cascade is bolstered by multiple factors, including activation of "stressor" genes and elaborating hormones, including steroids with sometimes nocuous consequences, particularly when chronic. Yoga has been categorically found to have inhibited each and every one of these baneful effects of stress. In fact, it also changes the neuronal circuits that potentiate such a plethora of pathological changes. This, in turn, has accentuated yoga's relevance as a powerful preventive intervention in noncommunicable diseases (NCD). NCDs, including heart disease, stroke, and rheumatological disorders, are essentially inflammatory diseases that perpetuate inflammation in different beds like vascular or joint spaces. The precise mechanism by which yoga induces such beneficial changes is yet to be delineated. However, a cornucopia of pointers indicates that neural, endocrine, immunological, cellular, genetic, and epigenetic mechanisms are at play. This article attempts to cobble together newfangled research to delineate a medical model for this 5000-year-old practice from India. This is imperative, as a mechanistic model of this ancient-but-complex system would enable a more comprehensive understanding of its mechanism and reveal its yet-undiscovered positive health effects.
... A meta-analysis by Fox et al. [184] showed changes in brain structures, especially increases of the gray and white matter in the prefrontal cortex, by meditation. Specifically, in the anterior prefrontal cortex (BA10), cortical thickness significantly increased compared to controls [189][190][191]. In the orbitofrontal cortex (BA11), cortical thickness [190,191] and white matter fiber density [190] were significantly increased in meditators compared to those in control groups. ...
... Specifically, in the anterior prefrontal cortex (BA10), cortical thickness significantly increased compared to controls [189][190][191]. In the orbitofrontal cortex (BA11), cortical thickness [190,191] and white matter fiber density [190] were significantly increased in meditators compared to those in control groups. In the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA46), white matter fiber density was significantly increased in meditators compared to controls [190]. ...
Article
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Women have been reported to be more vulnerable to the development, prognosis and mortality of cardiovascular diseases, yet the understanding of the underlying mechanisms and strategies to overcome them are still relatively undeveloped. Studies show that women’s brains are more sensitive to factors affecting mental health such as depression and stress than men’s brains. In women, poor mental health increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, and conversely, cardiovascular disease increases the incidence of mental illness such as depression. In connection with mental health and cardiovascular health, the presence of gender differences in brain activation, cortisol secretion, autonomic nervous system, vascular health and inflammatory response has been observed. This connection suggests that strategies to manage women’s mental health can contribute to preventing cardiovascular disease. Mind–body interventions, such as meditation, yoga and qigong are forms of exercise that strive to actively manage both mind and body. They can provide beneficial effects on stress reduction and mental health. They are also seen as structurally and functionally changing the brain, as well as affecting cortisol secretion, blood pressure, heart rate variability, immune reactions and reducing menopausal symptoms, thus positively affecting women’s cardiovascular health. In this review, we investigate the link between mental health, brain activation, HPA axis, autonomic nervous system, blood pressure and immune system associated with cardiovascular health in women and discuss the effects of mind–body intervention in modulating these factors.
... There is now clear evidence of neuroplastic changes in the brain structure because of the development of meditational skill (e.g. Fell, Axmacher, and Haupt 2010;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009). Moreover, there is considerable evidence that certain types of mediation involve lateral asymmetry in PFC functioning (e.g. ...
... Meditation cultures are formed because of one of the invariant properties of meditationthe accumulation of memories of experiences and meanings around the object of meditation. Furthermore, the evidence is strong that systematic meditation produces measurable effects on both the brain and the immune system of practitioners, especially those who have become mature contemplatives (Laughlin, McManus, and d'Aquili 1993;Davidson et al. 2003;Manna et al. 2010;Short et al. 2007;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009). No matter the object of our concentration, eventually the act of concentrating will evoke and potentiate other experiences, memories, and intuitive insights, and these associations become the meaning of the object (Laughlin, McManus, and Webber 1984;Laughlin et al. 1986). ...
Article
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While discussions of meditation by psychologists tend to focus upon various forms of East Asian yogic practice, other systems of meditation occur across cultures. Meditation is defined in neuropsychological terms that allow the phenomenon to be examined in ethnographic situations. Anthropologists have found that meditation on culturally salient symbols is widespread among the world’s spiritual rituals and is very likely one of the earliest religious practices that arose during the Paleolithic. All systems of meditation are shown to be embedded within a cycle of meaning which operates to evoke spiritual experiences, anticipates the experiences that arise because of ritually controlled volition, and provides culturally appropriate interpretations of these experiences. Using this description of cultural–phenomenological interaction, it is possible to discern those societies that have meditation cultures and those that do not. Such meditation systems as prayer, dream yoga, shamanic journeying, trance dancing, and visualization in aid of healing are examined.
... Several studies have investigated the effect of MBIs and long-term mindfulness meditation practice using structural brain imaging, like morphometry-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. Cross-sectional design studies comparing healthy controls with expert meditators (EMs) from different meditation traditions have demonstrated structural MRI changes in: the hippocampus (Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; right anterior insula (AI; Lazar et al., 2005;Hölzel et al., 2008); orbitofrontal cortex (OFC; Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; Grant et al., 2013); left temporal pole (TP; Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; left frontal gyrus (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;; right frontal sulcus (Lazar et al., 2005); corpus callosum (Luders et al., 2012;; and regions in the brainstem (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Moreover, a study using machine learning structural pattern recognition analysis estimated that brains of meditators were 7.5 years younger than matched control subjects (Luders et al., 2016). ...
... Several studies have investigated the effect of MBIs and long-term mindfulness meditation practice using structural brain imaging, like morphometry-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. Cross-sectional design studies comparing healthy controls with expert meditators (EMs) from different meditation traditions have demonstrated structural MRI changes in: the hippocampus (Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; right anterior insula (AI; Lazar et al., 2005;Hölzel et al., 2008); orbitofrontal cortex (OFC; Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; Grant et al., 2013); left temporal pole (TP; Hölzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;; left frontal gyrus (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;; right frontal sulcus (Lazar et al., 2005); corpus callosum (Luders et al., 2012;; and regions in the brainstem (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Moreover, a study using machine learning structural pattern recognition analysis estimated that brains of meditators were 7.5 years younger than matched control subjects (Luders et al., 2016). ...
Thesis
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Achtsamkeit wird mit vielen positiven Effekten für das psychische Wohlbefinden assoziiert, wobei Fähigkeiten wie Emotionsregulation (ER) und soziale Kognition (SC) zu den wichtigsten Mechanismen gehören. In der vorliegenden Doktorarbeit wurde die Beziehung zwischen Achtsamkeit, ER und SC mit verschiedenen methodischen Ansätzen untersucht. In Studie I wurde mithilfe von Literatur und empirischen Modellen die Beziehung zwischen Achtsamkeit und ER ausgearbeitet und verschiedene psychologische und neurokognitive Mechanismen diskutiert. Studie II zielte darauf ab den ER-Mechanismus bei „Trait-Achtsamkeit“ zu entschlüsseln. Hier zeigte sich, dass es sowohl bei Probanden mit einer Borderline-Persönlichkeitsstörung als auch bei gesunden Teilnehmern einen mediierenden Effekt von Selbstmitgefühl gab, der Achtsamkeit mit ER-Merkmalen verband. Studie III untersuchte den Zusammenhang zwischen ER und SC mit Hilfe von Verhaltens- und Neuroimaging-Experimenten, mit Fokus auf dem Konzept der sozialen ER (die Fähigkeit, die Emotionen anderer zu modulieren). Es zeigte sich, dass bei der Regulierung der Emotionen anderer der eigene Stress reduziert wird, wobei wichtige "soziokognitive" Hirnregionen (z.B. Precuneus) an der Vermittlung dieser Effekte beteiligt sind. Studie IV untersuchte im Rahmen einer Neuroimaging-basierten randomisierten Kontrollstudie ER-Mechanismen während einer achtsamkeitsbasierten Intervention (MBI). Die Studie zeigte eine durch die MBI induzierte ER-Verhaltensplastizität im Gehirn, sowohl für die Eigen- als auch für die soziale ER. Ein Effekt im Vergleich zu SC (kognitive und emotionale Empathie) wurde nicht gezeigt. Unter Einbezug aller Ergebnisse wurde ein Modell postuliert, das den Austausch und die Regulierung von Emotionen im Kontext von sozialen Interaktionen integriert. Die Dissertation bietet neue Einblicke in die ER-Mechanismen der Achtsamkeit und beleuchtet die individuellen Determinanten sozialer Prozesse durch das Zusammenbringen von ER und SC.
... VM and MBSR meditators also show structural and functional augmentations of primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, including increased cortical thickness [18] and fMRI-BOLD signal [20]. Finally, VM meditators show significantly thicker cortex [18] (and in Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, increased grey matter density [22]) in RLPFC/BA10, suggesting enhancement of a region strongly implicated in introspection [5,7,8,45]. ...
... Inter-subject differences in introspective accuracy are predicted by grey matter volume in RLPFC/ BA10 [5], and within subjects, the practice of introspection itself modulates activity in this same region [8]. If intensive introspective practice during meditation recruits RLPFC/BA10, use-dependent structural or functional alterations there might explain the enhancement of introspective accuracy -and as noted above, two studies have already reported structural differences in this region in long-term meditators [18,22]. Considering the specific nature of the meditation engaged in by BSM practitioners, we consider plasticity in cortical regions related to body awareness (e.g., S1, insula) another important means whereby introspective accuracy for tactile sensitivity might be improved. ...
Preprint
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The accuracy of subjective reports, especially those involving introspection of one’s own internal processes, remains unclear, and research has demonstrated large individual differences in introspective accuracy. It has been hypothesized that introspective accuracy may be heightened in persons who engage in meditation practices, due to the highly introspective nature of such practices. We undertook a preliminary exploration of this hypothesis, examining introspective accuracy in a cross-section of meditation practitioners (1–15,000 hrs experience). Introspective accuracy was assessed by comparing subjective reports of tactile sensitivity for each of 20 body regions during a ‘body-scanning’ meditation with averaged, objective measures of tactile sensitivity (mean size of body representation area in primary somatosensory cortex; two-point discrimination threshold) as reported in prior research. Expert meditators showed significantly better introspective accuracy than novices; overall meditation experience also significantly predicted individual introspective accuracy. These resultssuggest that long-term meditators provide more accurate introspective reports than novices.
... By working directly with those places of the body, the therapist seeks to release emotional stress as well as the breath. Involving the body through breathing techniques alone or in combination with focused attention training can be effective in the treatment of PTSD by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and thereby reducing the heart rate and stress hormone levels 24,25,[39][40][41][42][43] . The body therapy sessions are based upon the therapeutic alliance which refers to the dynamic relation between the client and the therapist and their continuous negotiation of therapeutic goals. ...
Article
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Background Many veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning from military missions. This implies complex physical and psychosocial problems for veterans and their families. Treatment options today are primarily medically and psychologically founded but treatment response is incomplete. Body therapy for PTSD is scarcely researched though subject of increased attention. In 2015, a Danish pilot study was conducted exploring body therapy for PTSD. The study showed positive results and formed basis for a randomised controlled trial. This paper outlines the protocol for this trial. Methods The intervention will be evaluated in a two-arm randomised controlled trial (1:1). The trial will include 42 veterans with PTSD recruited by the Danish Military Psychiatric Centre. The intervention group receives treatment as usual and weekly body therapy treatment as add-on. The control group receives treatment as usual (TAU). Participants will complete four questionnaires assessing PTSD, depression, quality of life, function level and body awareness: at baseline, at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months post baseline. Linear regression models and mixed effects models will be used to assess intervention effects. Furthermore, an ethnographic study will examine how the participants experience the treatment and changes in their everyday life. The ethnographic study is based on in-depth interviews, participant observations and focus groups. A mixed method, convergent parallel design will be applied. Discussion This study examines the efficacy of body therapy for veterans with PTSD and how the treatment is experienced and affects daily life. The study will contribute with important knowledge on an alternative treatment for PTSD. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03777800;
... Hölzel et al. [17] concluded that 30 minutes of daily meditation increased the grey-matter density of the parts of the brain associated with empathy. Along the same lines, the practice of mindfulness has also been related to a greater amount of grey matter in the part of the cerebellum associated with cardiorespiratory control [18]. ...
Article
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Numerous interventions propose mindfulness training as a means of improving empathy. Our aim is to analyse the relationship between mindfulness practice and empathy through the mediating process of trait mindfulness. This sample comprised 264 undergraduate students (, SD = 11,39). The instruments used were Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and Toronto Empathy Questionnaire. The indirect effect was calculated using 10.000 bootstrap samples for the bootstrap confidence intervals corrected for bias. Empathy improvement is mediated by changes in the cognitions derived from mindfulness (B = .346, p<.01). The direct effect of mindfulness practice on empathy disappears in presence of this mediator (B = .133, p>.05). Mindfulness interventions that aim to improve empathy should focus on three of its components; observing, describing and nonreactivity to inner experience. Given the significance of the results, the research must be extended to larger samples.
... This includes changes in the synaptic structure of neural networks, in the connectivity strength between brain regions, or even an anatomical enlargement of brain areas involved (McClung and Nestler, 2008;May, 2011). Thus, motor exercise, musical training, memorizing, meditation practice, and psychotherapy have been shown to durably change brain structure and activity (Goldapple et al., 2004;Draganski et al., 2006;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;Dayan and Cohen, 2011;Ker and Nelson, 2019). In all these cases, the incorporation of experience in the form of altered neural dispositions results in an ever smoother performance, in acquired skills or habits. ...
Article
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From an embodied and enactive point of view, the mind-body problem has been reformulated as the relation between the lived or subject body on the one hand and the physiological or object body on the other ("body-body problem"). The aim of the paper is to explore the concept of circularity as a means of explaining the relation between the phenomenology of lived experience and the dynamics of organism-environment interactions. This concept of circularity also seems suitable for connecting enactive accounts with ecological psychology. It will be developed in a threefold way: (1) As the circular structure of embodiment, which manifests itself (a) in the homeostatic cycles between the brain and body and (b) in the sensorimotor cycles between the brain, body, and environment. This includes the interdependence of an organism's dispositions of sense-making and the affordances of the environment. (2) As the circular causality, which characterizes the relation between parts and whole within the living organism as well as within the organism-environment system. (3) As the circularity of process and structure in development and learning. Here, it will be argued that subjective experience constitutes a process of sense-making that implies (neuro-)physiological processes so as to form modified neuronal structures, which in turn enable altered future interactions. On this basis, embodied experience may ultimately be conceived as the integration of brain-body and body-environment interactions, which has a top-down, formative, or ordering effect on physiological processes. This will serve as an approach to a solution of the body-body problem.
... Spatial heterogeneity of effects More often than not, the strongest effects were observed in different locations in the brain which may be partly attributed to a lack of statistical power. In our main effect size meta-analysis, only the strongest effects were used leading to a dispersion of effects (Hedges' g from 0.18 to 2.07 -excluding Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009) along the expected null line of the funnel plot. This indicates that the population effect size is overestimated, calling to use the lower bound of the confidence interval as a safe assumption on how many subjects are needed to properly estimate/quantify the effect of the influence of meditation on grey matter. ...
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Knowing target regions undergoing strfuncti changes caused by behavioural interventions is paramount in evaluating the effectiveness of such practices. Here, using a systematic review approach, we identified 25 peer-reviewed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies demonstrating grey matter changes related to mindfulness meditation. An activation likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis (n = 16) revealed the right anterior ventral insula as the only significant region with consistent effect across studies, whilst an additional functional connectivity analysis indicates that both left and right insulae, and the anterior cingulate gyrus with adjacent paracingulate gyri should also be considered in future studies. Statistical meta-analyses suggest medium to strong effect sizes from Cohen’s d ~ 0.8 in the right insula to ~ 1 using maxima across the whole brain. The systematic review revealed design issues with selection, information, attrition and confirmation biases, in addition to weak statistical power. In conclusion, our analyses show that mindfulness meditation practice does induce grey matter changes but also that improvements in methodology are needed to establish mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention.
... A recent systematic review supported Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) in modulating several brain regions implicated in the pathophysiology of depression, (e.g., prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, cingulate and parietal cortices) and cognitive processes, such as self-awareness, sustained attention, visual-spatial memory, working memory and emotion regulation 1,8 . Neuroimaging studies also suggest that consistent mindfulness practice results in increased thickness of various cortical regions linked with auditory, visual, and somatosensory processing functions [14][15][16] . Subdomains of mindfulness may rely on distinct brain networks. ...
Article
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There has been substantial interest in Mindfulness Training (MT) to understand how it can benefit healthy individuals as well as people with a broad range of health conditions. Research has begun to delineate associated changes in brain function. However, whether measures of brain function can be used to identify individuals who are more likely to respond to MT remains unclear. The present study applies a recently developed brain-inspired Spiking Neural Network (SNN) model to electroencephalography (EEG) data to provide novel insight into: i) brain function in depression; ii) the effect of MT on depressed and non-depressed individuals; and iii) neurobiological characteristics of depressed individuals who respond to mindfulness. Resting state EEG was recorded from before and after a 6 week MT programme in 18 participants. Based on self-report, 3 groups were formed: non-depressed (ND), depressed before but not after MT (responsive, D+) and depressed both before and after MT (unresponsive, D−). The proposed SNN, which utilises a standard brain-template, was used to model EEG data and assess connectivity, as indicated by activation levels across scalp regions (frontal, frontocentral, temporal, centroparietal and occipitoparietal), at baseline and follow-up. Results suggest an increase in activation following MT that was site-specific as a function of the group. Greater initial activation levels were seen in ND compared to depressed groups, and this difference was maintained at frontal and occipitoparietal regions following MT. At baseline, D+ had great activation than D−. Following MT, frontocentral and temporal activation reached ND levels in D+ but remained low in D−. Findings support the SNN approach in distinguishing brain states associated with depression and responsiveness to MT. The results also demonstrated that the SNN approach can be used to predict the effect of mindfulness on an individual basis before it is even applied.
... Beta waves (13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)(25)(26)(27)(28)(29)(30) are associated with active thinking, active attention, focused on the outside world or solving concrete problems. ...
Article
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Effects of meditation on brain are not yet well characterized, although this topic has received considerable attention. The recent studies have challenged the traditionally held view that learning changes only the way the brain functions and instead showed that structural changes at the macroscopic level are possible. From a neuroscience perspective, meditation can be conceived as the interaction of diverse and distinct attentional mechanisms. Recent reports have begun to focus on well-characterized neural measures of attentional engagement during (state) and from (trait)meditation, which delineate specific effects of these ancient practices on brain activity and its subsequent influence on cognitive and emotional processing.
... Meditation involves mental training of brain networks usually not recruited in our daily lives. This type of training has been shown to lead to long-term changes in brain structure [14][15][16] and connectivity. [17][18][19] It is thus possible that, during meditation, neural networks in the epileptic region would be retrained away from the epileptic dynamic of brain activity. ...
Article
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Meditation has been deemed a miracle cure for a wide range of neurological disorders. However, it is unclear whether meditation practice would be beneficial for patients suffering from epilepsy. Here we report on the comparison of the effects of focused-attention meditation and a control task on electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in a patient undergoing stereoencephalographic (SEEG) investigation for drug-resistant epilepsy. The patient routinely practiced focused-attention meditation and reported that she found it beneficial. During the SEEG investigation, intracerebral EEG data were recorded during meditation as well as during mind-wandering task. The EEG data were analyzed for type of electrical activity (labeled) by two expert epi-leptologists. We found that the proportion of EEG segments containing activity classified as interictal epilep-tiform discharges (IEDs; abnormal electrical activity that occurs between seizures) increased significantly during meditation practice. Although the finding was surprising, this increase in IEDs may not correlate with an increase in seizure frequency, and the patient might still benefit from practicing meditation. The finding does, however, warrant further studies on the influence of meditation on epileptic activity.
... The first morphometric study conducted by Lazar and colleagues demonstrated that areas involved in interoception and attentional processes, such as the anterior insula and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), were thicker in experienced meditators than controls (Lazar et al. 2005). Since then, several studies investigated meditation-induced brain morphology changes, mainly by measuring cortical thickness (Lazar et al. 2005;Grant et al. 2013;Kang et al. 2013), gray matter volume (Hölzel et al. 2008(Hölzel et al. , 2010Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009;Pagnoni and Cekic 2007;Tang et al. 2020), and white-matter integrity (DTI) (Tang et al. 2010(Tang et al. , 2015Luders et al. 2011;Fayed et al. 2013;Posner et al. 2014). ...
Article
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In the past decades, there has been a growing scientific interest in characterizing neural correlates of meditation training. Nonetheless, the mechanisms underlying meditation remain elusive. In the present work, we investigated meditation-related changes in functional dynamics and structural connectivity (SC). For this purpose, we scanned experienced meditators and control (naive) subjects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to acquire structural and functional data during two conditions, resting-state and meditation (focused attention on breathing). In this way, we aimed to characterize and distinguish both short-term and long-term modifications in the brain’s structure and function. First, to analyze the fMRI data, we calculated whole-brain effective connectivity (EC) estimates, relying on a dynamical network model to replicate BOLD signals’ spatio-temporal structure, akin to functional connectivity (FC) with lagged correlations. We compared the estimated EC, FC, and SC links as features to train classifiers to predict behavioral conditions and group identity. Then, we performed a network-based analysis of anatomical connectivity. We demonstrated through a machine-learning approach that EC features were more informative than FC and SC solely. We showed that the most informative EC links that discriminated between meditators and controls involved several large-scale networks mainly within the left hemisphere. Moreover, we found that differences in the functional domain were reflected to a smaller extent in changes at the anatomical level as well. The network-based analysis of anatomical pathways revealed strengthened connectivity for meditators compared to controls between four areas in the left hemisphere belonging to the somatomotor, dorsal attention, subcortical and visual networks. Overall, the results of our whole-brain model-based approach revealed a mechanism underlying meditation by providing causal relationships at the structure-function level.
... Slow HR is frequently found in meditation practitioners. In these subjects, a slowing in heart rate has been associated to structural changes within the cardiorespiratory centers as well as to increased connectivity between lower brainstem regions and cortical areas (Luders et al., 2011;Streeter et al., 2012;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). In general, interventions using meditation techniques have been linked to increased parasympathetic activity, lower heart rate and stronger functional connectivity between CAN regions, in particular PCC, ACC, VMPFC and insula (Brewer et al., 2011;Kilpatrick et al., 2011;Streeter et al., 2012;Tang et al., 2012). ...
Article
The peripheral autonomic nervous system (ANS) adjusts the heart rate (HR) to intrinsic and extrinsic demands. It is controlled by a group of functionally connected brain regions assembling the so-called central autonomic network (CAN). More specifically, forebrain cortical regions, limbic and brainstem structures within the CAN have been identified as important components of circuits involved in HR regulation. The present study aimed to investigate whether functional connectivity (FC) between these regions varies in subjects with different heart rates. Thus, 84 healthy subjects were separated according to their HR in slow, medium and fast. We observed a direct association between HR and FC in CAN regions, where stronger FC was related to slower HR. This relationship, however, is non-linear, follows an exponential course and is not restricted to CAN areas only. The network-based analysis (NBS) using time series from 262 independent anatomical ROIs revealed significantly increased functional connectivity in subjects with slow HR compared to subjects with fast HR mainly in regions being part of the salience network, but also of the default-mode network. We additionally simulated the effect of aliasing on the functional connectivity using several TRs and heart rates to exclude the possibility that FC differences might be due to different aliasing effects in the data. The result of the simulation indicated that aliasing cannot explain our findings. Thus, present results imply a functionally meaningful coupling between FC and HR that need to be accounted for in future studies. Moreover, given the established link between HR and emotional, cognitive and social processes, present findings may also be considered to explain individual differences in brain activation or connectivity when using corresponding paradigms in the MR scanner to investigate such processes.
... The enlargement in the brainstem is of particular interest, as previous studies have found increased GMV in long-term meditators relative to controls in the brainstem [66,67]; in a longitudinal study of mindfulness meditation, this increase of GMV in the brainstem in the meditators was associated with better well-being [68]. The brainstem contains several production areas of several modulatory neurotransmitter pathways, such as those arising from the raphe nuclei (serotonergic; associated with modulation of mood and cognitive functions), ventral tegmental area (dopaminergic; associated with motivation, working memory and attention) and locus coeruleus (noradrenergic; associated with arousal and attention) [68,69]. ...
Article
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Objectives Our previous study showed that long-term practitioners of Sahaja Yoga Meditation (SYM) had around 7% larger grey matter volume (GMV) in the whole brain compared with healthy controls; however, when testing individual regions, only 5 small brain areas were statistically different between groups. Under the hypothesis that those results were statistically conservative, with the same dataset, we investigated in more detail the regional differences in GMV associated with the practice of SYM, with a different statistical approach. Design Twenty-three experienced practitioners of SYM and 23 healthy non-meditators matched on age, sex and education level, were scanned using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Their GMV were extracted and compared using Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM). Using a novel ad-hoc general linear model, statistical comparisons were made to observe if the GMV differences between meditators and controls were statistically significant. Results In the 16 lobe area subdivisions, GMV was statistically significantly different in 4 out of 16 areas: in right hemispheric temporal and frontal lobes, left frontal lobe and brainstem. In the 116 AAL area subdivisions, GMV difference was statistically significant in 11 areas. The GMV differences were statistically more significant in right hemispheric brain areas. Conclusions The study shows that long-term practice of SYM is associated with larger GMV overall, and with significant differences mainly in temporal and frontal areas of the right hemisphere and the brainstem. These neuroplastic changes may reflect emotional and attentional control mechanisms developed with SYM. On the other hand, our statistical ad-hoc method shows that there were more brain areas with statistical significance compared to the traditional methodology which we think is susceptible to conservative Type II errors.
... For example, long-term meditation practice been associated with structural changes in areas involved in attention, interoception, sensory processing (Lazar et al., 2005), learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking (Hölzel et al., 2011), and in the default mode network (Hölzel et al., 2011;Jang et al., 2011), such as right anterior insula (Lazar et al., 2005;Hölzel et al., 2008), frontal areas (Hölzel et al., 2008;Kang et al., 2012;Lazar et al., 2005;Luders et al., 2009), temporal areas (Hölzel et al., 2008;Kang et al., 2012;Luders et al., 2009), hippocampus (Hölzel et al., 2008;Hölzel et al., 2011;Luders et al., 2009), cerebellum (Hölzel et al., 2011), and brainstem (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Enhanced connectivity within attentional networks and between attentional networks and the DMN have been found as well as deactivations within the DMN (Brewer et al., 2011;. ...
Thesis
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Meditation has been practiced around the world for thousands of years and has during the past decade become increasingly popular in the Western world. Meditation can be seen as a form of mental exercise and refers to a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory practices that involves different attentional, cognitive monitoring and awareness processes. Clinical research on meditation has demonstrated that meditation seem to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Recent interest in how meditation affect the human brain and body have lead to an increase in research regarding the neural correlates of meditation, structural changes induced by meditation, and the potential attentional and emotional benefits mediated by meditation. This thesis investigates expert related changes in neural activity, brain structure, and attentional performance induced by focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM). The research on meditation and the brain is still in its infancy but despite this, there seem to be some converging evidence of meditation’s impact on the human brain and mind. The results from the included studies in this thesis indicates that expert meditators show greater activation in some meditation related brain areas, as well as less activation in other areas when compared to novice meditators. The results also suggest that long-term meditation practice induce some structural changes in the brain and that meditation seem to enhance the practitioners’ attentional control.
... He attempted to suppress fear with mindful meditation (dhy ana). 15 Although recent studies on mindful meditation are still physiologically inconclusive, there is growing evidence that it does cause some sort of neuroplastic changes in brain regions concerned with the regulation of attention, emotion, and self-awareness (Davidson and Lutz 2008;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009;Treadway and Lazar 2010;Tang, Holzel, and Posner 2015). To this, we do not know if Siddh artha meditated or not. ...
Article
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A comparison between Muḥammad and Siddhārtha's psychological states is made to identify how they had their mystical experiences and how their presuppositions and personalities shaped their interpretation of these experiences. Muḥammad's mystical experience appeared to be based on an altered state of consciousness. Siddhārtha's teachings include that one must not have blind faith and remain open to various truths. These teachings may reflect that he was high in openness to experience, which may have fortified him from becoming delusional. While mystical experiences may have pathological overlaps, they could be categorized in a similar way to psychological states. Yet, mindful presuppositions and personality traits, especially from within openness to experience spectrum, are what make perceptions of these experiences diverse.
... showing thicker gray matter cortex in the right insula and frontal lobes of expert meditators (practicing insight meditation ;Lazar et al., 2005), changes in brain morphology have been documented in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, involving either practitioners with a long personal history of meditation (Grant et al., 2010;Holzel et al., 2008;Luders et al., 2009;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009) or naïve participants with no prior meditation experience, exposed to relatively short (8 weeks) intensive meditation experiences (Holzel et al., 2011;Santarnecchi et al., 2014). ...
Article
Mindfulness is a meditation practice frequently associated with changes in subjective evaluation of cognitive and sensorial experience, as well as with modifications of brain activity and morphometry. Aside from the anatomical localization of functional changes induced by mindfulness practice, little is known about changes in functional and effective functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) connectivity. Here we performed a connectivity fMRI analysis in a group of healthy individuals participating in an 8‐week mindfulness‐based stress reduction (MBSR) training program. Data from both a “mind‐wandering” and a “meditation” state were acquired before and after the MBSR course. Results highlighted decreased local connectivity after training in the right anterior putamen and insula during spontaneous mind‐wandering and the right cerebellum during the meditative state. A further effective connectivity analysis revealed (a) decreased modulation by the anterior cingulate cortex over the anterior portion of the putamen, and (b) a change in left and right posterior putamen excitatory input and inhibitory output with the cerebellum, respectively. Results suggest a rearrangement of dorsal striatum functional and effective connectivity in response to mindfulness practice, with changes in cortico‐subcortical‐cerebellar modulatory dynamics. Findings might be relevant for the understanding of widely documented mindfulness behavioral effects, especially those related to pain perception.
... One way to measure mindfulness is to assess brain structure and activity (e.g., FMRI, MRI, EEG). Several studies have used imaging techniques to gain more insight into brain structure, function, and connectivity of meditators (e.g., Leung et al. 2013;Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009; see Cahn and Polich 2006 for review). Meditators show increased gray matter (e.g., Hölzel et al. 2011) and differences in functionality of brain areas (e.g., Lazar et al. 2005) as compared to nonmeditators. ...
Article
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Objectives Preliminary research and anecdotal accounts suggest individuals often hold preconceived notions, misconceptions, and misinformation about the theory and practice of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Still, no experimental research examines how these ideas about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation influence responses to state mindfulness instruments designed to measure related outcomes. Methods The current study implemented an experimental-experiential design to examine how the presentation of mindfulness via mindfulness theory-consistent(TC) and theory-inconsistent(TI) treatment rationales and subsequent mindfulness meditation practices (consistent with respective rationales) affected participants’ (n = 114) state mindfulness scores and perceptions of mindfulness. Self-reported trait mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS), state mindfulness (Toronto Mindfulness Scale, TMS; State Mindfulness Scale, SMS), and qualitative measurements (participant open entry) were utilized. Results Despite vastly different presentations of mindfulness being utilized by participants (successful experimental manipulation; significant between-group differences in number of qualitative mindfulness misconceptions coded [TI > TC]), there were no significant differences between the two experimental groups on state mindfulness measures directly following TC and TI rationales and practices. No significant differences were observed between the TC and TI conditions for usability or perceived accuracy of the rationales and practices, and self-reported previous mindfulness experience did not predict one’s likelihood of providing qualitative misconceptions. Conclusions When taught TI mindfulness meditation material, participants were more likely to respond with TI information even though state mindfulness measures after practice did not differ from the TC condition. Results and limitations are discussed, along with suggestions for future research directions and practice implications.
... Noteworthy in this context is the fact that studies report improved emotional regulation [40] following different mental attention training regimens, in parallel to activation in neural areas that are closely linked to motor learning, including the cerebellum [41][42][43]. When the cerebellar timing function is disrupted, the information processing stream becomes desynchronized, which can lead to a range of psychopathological conditions [44]. ...
Chapter
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While emotion and cognition were previously considered separate concepts, current research demonstrates an interplay between them. In the current chapter, we discuss the importance of the body in relation to emotional intelligence (EI) and executive functioning. In particular, we address a specific movement meditation called Quadrato Motor Training (QMT), which has been shown to enhance emotion regulation and neurocognitive functions. We then examine the importance of emotion regulation in the context of the Sphere Model of Consciousness (SMC) and related neurocognitive studies. The SMC is a neuro-phenomenal model of consciousness based on three main axes: Emotion, Time, and Self-Determination. It presents all phenomenal experiences in a sphere-shaped matrix, aiming to account for different interactions among the axes. Through this model, the processes leading to improved EI can be framed in a general theory of consciousness and described in relation to the three axes. We discuss three key concepts in relation to the SMC: (1) EI; (2) identification, namely excessive self-involvement or feeling caught up by experience (3) self-awareness, or awareness and management of ongoing inner processes.
... Previous studies revealed that meditation, a mind-body exercise, is beneficial for emotional stability (Tang et al., 2015). Meanwhile, meditation is also considered to be a positive approach to remolding brain structure (Vestergaardpoulsen et al., 2009;Grant et al., 2010;Murakami et al., 2012;Kang et al., 2013;Leung et al., 2013). For instance, Ortner et al. (2007) found that meditators showed reduced emotional responsiveness to unpleasant situation, suggesting an enhanced emotional regulation to avoid potentially harmful effects of negative emotions. ...
Article
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Brain adverse structural changes, especially the atrophy of gray matter, are inevitable in aging. Fortunately, the human brain is plastic throughout its entire life. The current cross-section study aimed to investigate whether long-term Tai Chi exercise could slow gray matter atrophy and explore the possible links among gray matter volume (GMV), long-term Tai Chi experience and emotional stability in a sequential risk-taking task by using voxel-based morphometry. Elders with long-term Tai Chi experience and controls, who were matched to Tai Chi group in age, gender, physical activity level, participated in the study. A T1-weighted multiplanar reconstruction sequence was acquired for each participant. Behaviorally, the Tai Chi group showed higher meditation level, stronger emotional stability and less risk-taking tendency in the sequential risk-taking compared to the control group. Moreover, the results revealed that the GMV of the thalamus and hippocampus were larger in the Tai Chi group compared with the control group. Notably, the GMV of the thalamus was positively correlated with both meditation level and emotional stability. The current study suggested the protective role of long-term Tai Chi exercise at slowing gray matter atrophy, improving the emotional stability and achieving successful aging for elders.
... The first morphometric study conducted by Lazar and colleagues demonstrated that areas involved in interoception and attentional processes, such as the anterior insula and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), were thicker in experienced meditators than controls (Lazar et al., 2005). Since then, several studies investigated meditation-induced brain morphology changes, mainly by measuring cortical thickness (Lazar et al., 2005;Grant et al., 2013;Kang et al., 2013), gray matter volume (Hölzel et al., 2008(Hölzel et al., , 2010Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;Pagnoni and Cekic, 2007;Tang et al., 2020), and white-matter integrity (DTI) (Tang et al., 2010(Tang et al., , 2015Luders et al., 2011;Fayed et al., 2013;Posner et al., 2014). ...
Preprint
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In the past decades, there has been a growing scientific interest in characterizing neural correlates of meditation training. Nonetheless, the mechanisms underlying meditation remain elusive. In the present work, we investigated meditation-related changes in structural and functional connectivities (SC and FC, respectively). For this purpose, we scanned experienced meditators and control (naive) subjects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to acquire structural and functional data during two conditions, resting-state and meditation (focused attention on breathing). In this way, we aimed to characterize and distinguish both short-term and long-term modifications in the brain's structure and function. First, we performed a network-based analysis of anatomical connectivity. Then, to analyze the fMRI data, we calculated whole-brain effective connectivity (EC) estimates, relying on a dynamical network model to replicate BOLD signals' spatio-temporal structure, akin to FC with lagged correlations. We compared the estimated EC, FC, and SC links as features to train classifiers to predict behavioral conditions and group identity. The whole-brain SC analysis revealed strengthened anatomical connectivity across large-scale networks for meditators compared to controls. We found that differences in SC were reflected in the functional domain as well. We demonstrated through a machine-learning approach that EC features were more informative than FC and SC solely. Using EC features we reached high performance for the condition-based classification within each group and moderately high accuracies when comparing the two groups in each condition. Moreover, we showed that the most informative EC links that discriminated between meditators and controls involved the same large-scale networks previously found to have increased anatomical connectivity. Overall, the results of our whole-brain model-based approach revealed a mechanism underlying meditation by providing causal relationships at the structure-function level.
... The first morphometric study conducted by Lazar and colleagues demonstrated that areas involved in interoception and attentional processes, such as the anterior insula and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), were thicker in experienced meditators than controls (Lazar et al., 2005). Since then, several studies investigated meditation-induced brain morphology changes, mainly by measuring cortical thickness (Lazar et al., 2005;Grant et al., 2013;Kang et al., 2013), gray matter volume (Hölzel et al., 2008(Hölzel et al., , 2010Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;Pagnoni and Cekic, 2007;Tang et al., 2020), and white-matter integrity (DTI) (Tang et al., 2010(Tang et al., , 2015Luders et al., 2011;Fayed et al., 2013;Posner et al., 2014). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
In the past decades, there has been a growing scientific interest in characterizing neural correlates of meditation training. Nonetheless, the mechanisms underlying meditation remain elusive. In the present work, we investigated meditation-related changes in structural and functional connectivities (SC and FC, respectively). For this purpose, we scanned experienced meditators and control (naive) subjects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to acquire structural and functional data during two conditions, resting-state and meditation (focused attention on breathing). In this way, we aimed to characterize and distinguish both short-term and long-term modifications in the brain's structure and function. First, we performed a network-based analysis of anatomical connectivity. Then, to analyze the fMRI data, we calculated whole-brain effective connectivity (EC) estimates, relying on a dynamical network model to replicate BOLD signals' spatio-temporal structure, akin to FC with lagged correlations. We compared the estimated EC, FC, and SC links as features to train classifiers to predict behavioral conditions and group identity. The whole-brain SC analysis revealed strengthened anatomical connectivity across large-scale networks for meditators compared to controls. We found that differences in SC were reflected in the functional domain as well. We demonstrated through a machine-learning approach that EC features were more informative than FC and SC solely. Moreover, we showed that the most informative EC links that discriminated between meditators and controls involved the same large-scale networks previously found to have increased anatomical connectivity. Overall, the results of our whole-brain model-based approach revealed a mechanism underlying meditation by providing causal relationships at the structure-function level.
... Some studies have claimed that the frontal and pre-frontal regions become more activated when compared with nearby regions during the meditation. Besides, many studies have reported the increase in a grey matter volume of brain regions in meditator group [32][33][34]. Benson et al. and Kozhevnikov et al. reported that the body temperature increases during the practice of g-Tummo meditation, where the contact-type thermal sensors were used for measurement [16,17]. To some extent, the recording procedures of these techniques might be uncomfortable to the meditators. ...
Article
Meditation is a mental health training which helps to overwhelm the negative mental states. So far, many studies have shown the successful role of electrophysiological and neuroimaging techniques in the evaluation of meditation's effects on the functional and structural attributes of the brain. But the recording procedures of these techniques might be uncomfortable for the meditators. Unlike, the infrared thermography (IRT) is a highly non-invasive and human-friendly technique which requires minimal settings for data acquisition without violating the meditation procedure. The paper presents an IRT based approach to analyse the effect of mindfulness meditation on the autonomic activity characterized by thermal profile of forehead region. Moreover, the proposed approach enables the automatic extraction of forehead region which further automates the process of thermal data processing and analysis. In this study, the total of 18 subjects (9 meditators and 9 non-meditators) were involved in the imaging trail of dynamic facial thermography. To validate the study results, the obtained thermal data have been analysed (a) subjectively, based on the amplitude of normalized energy; and (b) objectively, by performing the one-way ANOVA test. Consequently, the objective analysis showed that the thermal profiles of both the groups are significantly different at probability, ρ=0.00074. In meditator group, the positive values of normalized energy have indicated that the mean temperature of forehead region increases during the meditation as a resultant of increased blood flow in the cerebral cortex of the brain and cutaneous vessels of the face. Meanwhile, in the case of non-meditators, the negative or small values of normalized energy have indicated that the forehead temperature either decreases or fluctuates around the baseline temperature. The findings of both the analysis indicate that the thermal profiles of meditator group are significantly different from those of non-meditators, except the subjects m6,n3 and n5. Hence, the facial IRT can be used as a bio-trainer and bio-feedback system which assists both the meditators and novices to sustain and monitor the meditation performance quantitatively.
... Finally, other potential interventions may involve breathing practices such as meditation, pranayama and breath-control, which are thought to involve the LC-NA system [190,191]. Some studies on long-term meditators have indeed reported increased brain volume in critical areas affected in dementia, including the brainstem, along with better cognitive efficiency [165,[192][193][194][195], after as a little as 5-10 h of practice [196,197]. ...
Article
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The noradrenergic theory of Cognitive Reserve (Robertson, 2013–2014) postulates that the upregulation of the locus coeruleus—noradrenergic system (LC–NA) originating in the brainstem might facilitate cortical networks involved in attention, and protracted activation of this system throughout the lifespan may enhance cognitive stimulation contributing to reserve. To test the above-mentioned theory, a study was conducted on a sample of 686 participants (395 controls, 156 mild cognitive impairment, 135 Alzheimer’s disease) investigating the relationship between LC volume, attentional performance and a biological index of brain maintenance (BrainPAD—an objective measure, which compares an individual’s structural brain health, reflected by their voxel-wise grey matter density, to the state typically expected at that individual’s age). Further analyses were carried out on reserve indices including education and occupational attainment. Volumetric variation across groups was also explored along with gender differences. Control analyses on the serotoninergic (5-HT), dopaminergic (DA) and cholinergic (Ach) systems were contrasted with the noradrenergic (NA) hypothesis. The antithetic relationships were also tested across the neuromodulatory subcortical systems. Results supported by Bayesian modelling showed that LC volume disproportionately predicted higher attentional performance as well as biological brain maintenance across the three groups. These findings lend support to the role of the noradrenergic system as a key mediator underpinning the neuropsychology of reserve, and they suggest that early prevention strategies focused on the noradrenergic system (e.g., cognitive-attentive training, physical exercise, pharmacological and dietary interventions) may yield important clinical benefits to mitigate cognitive impairment with age and disease.
... Meditation has been associated with trait changes of the brain structure using crosssectional structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) studies. Increased gray matter (GM) density [10][11][12] and cortical thickness [13][14][15][16] have been found in the default mode network (DMN) and dorsal attention network (DAN) regions in charge of self-referential and attention processing: such as superior parietal gyri (a posterior region in DAN), precuneus (a posterior region in DMN), anterior cingulate, superior and middle frontal gyri, and orbitofrontal (prefrontal regions in DMN) regions in meditators. Longitudinal sMRI studies further confirmed causal effects of meditation on increased GM density after an 8-week meditation training in the posterior cingulate cortex and temporoparietal junction (posterior regions in DMN) [15,17,18]. ...
Article
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We aimed to assess whether dynamic arterial spin labeling (dASL), a novel quantitative MRI technique with minimal contamination of subject motion and physiological noises, could detect the longitudinal effect of focused attention meditation (FAM) on resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC). A total of 10 novice meditators who recorded their FAM practice time were scanned at baseline and at the 2-month follow-up. Two-month meditation practice caused significantly increased rsFC between the left medial temporal (LMT) seed and precuneus area and between the right frontal eye (RFE) seed and medial prefrontal cortex. Meditation practice time was found to be positively associated with longitudinal changes of rsFC between the default mode network (DMN) and dorsal attention network (DAN), between DMN and insula, and between DAN and the frontoparietal control network (FPN) but negatively associated with changes of rsFC between DMN and FPN, and between DAN and visual regions. These findings demonstrate the capability of dASL in identifying the FAM-induced rsFC changes and suggest that the practice of FAM can strengthen the efficient control of FPN on fast switching between DMN and DAN and enhance the utilization of attentional resources with reduced focus on visual processing.
... While still inconclusive, there is preliminary evidence that meditation can create significant morphological changes to brain structure including cortical thickness (Lazar et al., 2005) and increased grey matter density in the brain stem (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). A large-scale review of multiple studies revealed eight brain regions predictably altered in meditators, including regions critical for memory formation and recall (hippocampus), metaawareness-the conscious awareness of cognition (fronto-polar cortex), external body awareness (sensory cortex), internal body awareness (insula), decision making, self-regulation and emotional regulation (anterior cingulate cortex, mid cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex), interhemispheric communication (corpus callosum), and intrahemispheric communication (superior longitudinal fasciculus) (Fox et al., 2014). ...
Article
For millennia, monasteries have been at the forefront of training virtues such as compassion, transcendence, service, gratitude, forgiveness, and grit, as well as foundational psychological capacities such as self-regulation, sustained, voluntary attention, emotional intelligence, and meta-cognitive awareness. Monasteries of the Future are modern institutions, both secular and religious, designed to provide the requisite financial, social, intellectual, and instructional support necessary to train a new generation of contemplative adepts. Forming a network of centers which collaborate and compete, Monasteries of the Future will establish and uphold the highest standards in the contemplative field. By partnering with modern science, most notably positive psychology, neuroscience, and medicine, Monasteries of the Future will drive innovation in the field of contemplative science, and in so doing, promote human flourishing and ameliorate suffering. The rationale for Monasteries of the Future is built on the science of deliberate practice, emerging research on meditation and neuroplasticity, and ancient contemplative claims. On the front lines of revealing what inner skills are trainable, how to train them, and how trainable they are, Monasteries of the Future will help to answer these pressing and complex questions, that in a world of seven billion people, have become questions of survival.
... Meditation is a term that encompasses a wide range of techniques and is an integral part of mindfulness-oriented intervention [82]. In its various forms, meditation has been shown to be associated with a reduction in symptoms in medical and psychiatric conditions, and beneficial brain changes in neuroimaging with long-term practice [83][84][85]. Practicing mindfulness meditation ultimately develops psychological well-being by increasing mindfulness and weakening responsiveness to mental stimuli by helping to divert attention from stimuli. It has also been found that the practice of meditation regularly is significantly responsible for enhancing cognitive flexibility and attentive effectiveness [86,87]. ...
Article
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Neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are the leading causes of dementia in the elderly. In the coming days, an alarming upsurge of dementia patients is expected with increasing life expectancy. This is the scenario not only in the developed world but also in the developing world, where older people live in vulnerable situations. Even in the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease-19) pandemic, the situation has worsened. Due to the limitations of conventional therapeutic strategies, it is necessary to explore integrated approaches consisting of both pharmacological and non-pharmaceutical interventions. As existing antidementia drugs pose many adverse effects on patients, pharmacological intervention through naturally occurring agents should be employed to explore targeted therapy. Alongside, non-pharmacological interventions such as cognitive and motor rehabilitation, occupational therapy, and psychological therapy need to be explored. From this perspective, multidisciplinary approaches need to be employed in order to develop a sustainable patient-friendly treatment strategy for the management of these emerging health issues with tremendous social burdens.
... While conducting work amongst remote peoples remains relevant, many important questions can also be investigated at home as long as ethnographic and other social scientific methods are used to identify meaningful patterns of practice. This can be done in collaboration with practitioners (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;Vuust et al., 2005), to design experimental paradigms that operationalizes relevant features in the particular practice. ...
Article
Recent findings in neuroscience have shown differential patterns in brain activity in response to similar stimuli and activities across cultural and social differences. This calls for a framework to understand how such differences may come to be implemented in brains and neurons. Based on strands of research in social anthropology, we argue that human practices are characterized by particular patterns, and that participating in these patterns orders how people perceive and act in particular group- and context-specific ways. This then leads to a particular patterning of neuronal processes that may be detected using e.g. brain imaging methods. We illustrate this through (a) a classical example of phoneme perception (b) recent work on performance in experimental game play. We then discuss these findings in the light of predictive models of brain function. We argue that a 'culture as patterned practices' approach obviates a rigid nature-culture distinction, avoids the problems involved in conceptualizing 'culture' as a homogenous grouping variable, and suggests that participating as a competent participant in particular practices may affect both the subjective (first person) experience and (third person) objective measures of behavior and brain activity.
... Effects within the DMN aside, other investigations have focused more on increases in gray matter in brainstem regions associated with the production of neurotransmitters and supporting the cranial nerves. Studies have found increased matter in these regions (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009), and subsequent research has linked this increased gray matter to greater levels of personal well-being (Singleton et al., 2014). ...
... Koszycki, Benger, Shlik, & Bradwejn, 2007); and in neuroscience, a subject whose relaxa on can be detected physically, measured, and established as a 'real' occurrence in their body (e.g. Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009;Raff one, & Srinivasan, 2010). ...
Article
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The recent surge in popularity of the concept 'mindfulness' in academic, professional, and popular psychology has been remarkable. The ease with which mindfulness has gained traction in the health sciences and cultural imagination makes it apparent mindfulness is well-suited to our current social climate, appealing to both, experts and laypeople. As a subdiscipline established relatively late in the twentieth century, health psychology has a unique relationship to mindfulness. This article elucidates the shared roots between health psychology and mindfulness as a psychological construct and field of research, providing a frame of reference for the ways in which health psychology and mindfulness share similar theoretical and methodological challenges that affect their integration into health, social systems, and services.
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Contemplative faculty are higher education professors who regularly implement contemplative approaches in their teaching to address their students’ social and emotional needs, promote creativity and nurture stable behavior. Through an analysis of contemplative faculty narratives this study explored contemplative higher education faculty perceptions on the use of contemplative pedagogy in the classroom and its impact on student mental and emotional health. After experiencing the benefits of contemplative practice for themselves, faculty wanted to pass along these practices to their students to address mental and emotional wellbeing. Faculty perceived specific benefits for their students including focus and acceptance.
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En neurosciences cognitives, l'observation à la troisième personne (objective) se heurte à un fossé explicatif lorsqu'il s'agit d'étudier l'expérience à la première personne (subjective). La neurophénoménologie est une approche scientifique qui se propose de dépasser ce problème en combinant objectivité et subjectivité.Elle a un intérêt méthodologique pour l'étude des états modifiés de conscience puisque ceux-ci se caractérisent par des corrélats neuronaux induits par une modification consciente de l'expérience subjective. La méditation de pleine conscience qui possède une histoire millénaire offre un champ de recherche faisant le lien entre ces deux points de vue. Cette thèse se propose d'effectuer une revue non-exhaustive des travaux de la neurobiologie et de la neurophénoménologie de la méditation de pleine conscience. En particulier, l'EEG, l'IRMf et le PET-Scan sont des outils d'investigation qui combinés à l'expérience subjective permettent de mettre en lumière des corrélats entre neurobiologie et expérience subjective.Plusieurs programmes de méditation laïque, qui participent à la troisième vague des thérapies cognitivo-comportementales se sont largement imposés Outre-Atlantique depuis les années 2000. La Mindfulness based cognitve therapy (MBCT) permet de réduire de manière significative le stress, la dépression et la douleur.Un groupe MBCT, permettant de mettre en valeur les différents mécanismes à l'œuvre dans la prévention de la rechute dépressive, a été mené par l'auteur.Ces thérapies intégratives, déjà présentes dans les recommandations de bonnes pratiques aux États-Unis et en Angleterre, devraient trouver leur place en Europe dans l'avenir.
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Brain studies done in the last 25 years comparing Trans- and Cis-participants are reviewed. The research ranges over different brain areas and structures, with different investigations employing different measures. Strengths and weaknesses of the studies are highlighted. Three important issues emerge as the research progresses. Initially there was a search for brain-based etiologies for the Trans phenomenon. The next phase emphasized tracts and network differences, which in principle, can either bring about, or result from living a Trans experience. And, finally there are two issues more currently investigated: (1) the question of primary brain causes vs. epigenetic brain effects, and (2) the possibility of a new ontological trans phenotype. Studies of sex-changing fish (particularly one from Rhodes and colleagues [2019]) provide proof-of-concept.
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Background Based on the evidence that meditation is associated with numerous beneficial effects on well-being and reduced stress-related symptoms, mindfulness-based techniques were increasingly implemented into psychotherapeutic programs. However, different meditation styles and the cross-sectional nature of most previous analyses resulted in a great variety of morphometric findings. The present study aims to elucidate cortical reorganization processes and altered axonal integrity caused by short-term meditation training, and benefits from solely using focused attention meditation (FAM). Methods 3 T MRI, including T1-MPRAGE and diffusion-weighted sequences, was performed in 27 healthy, meditation naïve participants (age: 43 ± 12.4 years) pre and post FAM meditation training (duration: 7.3 ± 0.4 weeks). Voxel-based morphometry was applied to assess brain changes in gray and white matter. Questionnaires were filled out by the individuals at both time-points to evaluate quality of life and self-awareness deficits. Results The major findings comprised (i) gray matter increases in the insula, the caudate nucleus and frontal cortices, (ii) decreases in extended parietotemporal regions, the right medial prefrontal cortex and the parahippocampal gyrus, as well as (iii) fractional anisotropy increases of the right hippocampus, the basal ganglia and adjacent regions. Regression analysis revealed an association of specific alterations with reduced levels of state anxiety. Conclusions FAM training induced a broad range of dynamic brain alterations even within few weeks of training. Interestingly, this cohort revealed more, and partially different patterns of structural gray matter change compared to prior studies. The broad impact on neuronal organization processes may reflect more general outcomes related to health and well-being.
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There is increasing interest in the potential efficacy of meditation-based mind-body interventions (MBIs) within mental health care. We conducted a systematic meta-review of the published randomized control trial (RCT) evidence. MEDLINE/PubMed, PsycARTICLES and EMBASE were searched from inception to 06/2020 examining MBIs (mindfulness, qigong, tai chi, yoga) as add-on or monotherapy versus no treatment, minimal treatment and passive and active control conditions in people with a mental disorder. The quality of the methods of the included meta-analyses using A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) and the methodological quality of the RCTs using AMSTAR-Plus. Sixteen (94%) of 17 meta-analyses had good overall methodological quality. The content validity of the included RCTs was considered good in 9 (53%) meta-analyses. In meta-analyses with good methodological quality (AMSTAR 8≤) and content validity (AMSTAR+ 4≤), large effect sizes (0.80 or higher) were observed for mindfulness in schizophrenia and in ADHD, a moderate (0.50≤0.80) effect size for mindfulness in PTSD and a small (0.20<0.50) effect size for yoga in schizophrenia No serious adverse events were reported (n RCTs =43, n in the MBI arms=1774), while the attrition rates were comparable with the rates in passive and active control conditions. Our meta-review demonstrates that mindfulness and to a lesser extent yoga may serve as an efficacious supplement to pharmacotherapy, and psychotherapy and can be complementary in healthy lifestyle interventions for people with mental disorders. Meta-analytic evidence of high methodological quality and content validity of included trials is currently lacking for qigong and tai chi.
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Objectives Many studies on various meditation types have reported regional gray matter volume changes using voxel-based morphometric analysis of structural MRI, but there are no studies done on structural MRI of Rajyoga meditators. The objective of the present study is to analyze and compare gray matter volume changes of brain regions in meditators and non-meditators and further study the effects of meditation experience on alterations in various brain regions. These regions were then correlated and compared to positive thought scores of participants. Methods Forty participants in each group (closely matched for age, gender, and handedness) were selected after obtaining their informed consent, and voxel-based morphometric analysis was carried out using their structural MRI scans. Results On voxel-wise comparison of the brain scans, meditators were observed to have significantly higher global gray matter volume and significant regional gray matter volume increases in the right superior frontal gyrus, left inferior orbitofrontal cortex, left inferior parietal gyrus, left posterior cerebellum, left middle temporal gyrus, bilateral precuneus, and cuneus. Additionally, long-term meditators particularly had significantly higher positive thinking scores compared to non-meditators. On multiple regression analysis, gray matter volume of the left superior parietal gyrus and left inferior parietal gyrus had a positive association, whereas the left posterior cerebellum had a negative association with hours of meditation experience. With the positive thoughts score, a significant relationship was found in the right superior temporal gyrus in meditators. Conclusions These findings indicate that Rajyoga meditation experience/practice enhances gray matter volume of specific brain regions and positive thoughts.
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Changes in brain resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) were investigated using a longitudinal design by following a 2-month focused attention meditation (FAM) practice and analyzing their association with FAM practice time. Ten novice meditators were recruited from a university meditation course. Participants were scanned with a resting-state fMRI sequence with multi-echo EPI acquisition at baseline and at the 2-month follow-up. Total FAM practice time was calculated from the daily log of the participants. We observed significantly increased rsFC between the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and dorsal attention network (DAN), the right middle temporal (RMT) region and default mode network (DMN), the left and right superior parietal lobules (LSPL/RSPL) and DMN, and the LSPL/RSPL and DAN. Furthermore, the rsFC between the LSPL and medial prefrontal cortex was significantly associated with the FAM practice time. These results demonstrate increased connectivity within the DAN, between the DMN and DAN, and between the DMN and visual cortex. These findings demonstrate that FAM can enhance the brain connection among and within brain networks, especially DMN and DAN, indicating potential effect of FAM on fast switching between mind wandering and focused attention and maintaining attention once in the attentive state.
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The noradrenergic theory of Cognitive Reserve (Robertson, 2013-2014) postulates that the upregulation of the Locus Coeruleus - Noradrenergic System (LC-NA) originating in the Brainstem might facilitate cortical networks involved in attention, and protracted activation of this system throughout the lifespan may enhance cognitive stimulation contributing to Reserve. To test the above-mentioned theory, a study was conducted on a sample of 686 participants (395 controls, 156 Mild Cognitive Impairment, 135 Alzheimer’s Disease) investigating the relationship between LC volume, attentional performance and a biological index of brain maintenance (BrainPAD – an objective measure which compares an individual’s structural brain health, reflected by their voxel-wise grey matter density, to the state typically expected at that individual’s age). Further analyses were carried out on Reserve indices including education and occupational attainment. Volumetric variation across groups was also explored along with gender differences. Control analyses on the Serotoninergic (5-HT), Dopaminergic (DA) and Cholinergic (Ach) systems were contrasted with the Noradrenergic (NA) hypothesis. The antithetic relationships were also tested across the neuromodulatory subcortical systems.Results supported by bayesian modelling showed that LC volume disproportionately predicted higher attentional performance as well as biological brain maintenance across the three groups. These findings lend support to the role of the noradrenergic system as a key mediator underpinning the neuropsychology of Reserve, and they suggest that early prevention strategies focused on the noradrenergic system (e.g. cognitive-attentive training, physical exercise, pharmacological and dietary interventions) may yield important clinical benefits to mitigate cognitive impairment with age and disease.
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Author: Thomas Fuchs Italian Translation by F. Brencio in F. Brencio (a cura di/ed.), Dal corpo oggetto alla mente incarnata - From the object body to the embodied mind, in “InCircolo – Rivista di Filosofia e Culture”, 11, pp. 21-59 ISSN 2531-4092 http://www.incircolorivistafilosofica.it/la-circolarita-della-mente-incarnata/
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Exercise promotes general metabolic wellness not only by preserving musculoskeletal function, increasing muscle flexibility, increasing cardiopulmonary fitness, decreasing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and improving mental health, but also by promoting bone health, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis, improving postural stability, reducing risk of falling and fractures, and range of motion, increasing lifespan, and improving quality of life. At the molecular level, beneficial effects of exercise are related, in part, to increase in insulin sensitivity, decrease in CRP and IL-6 levels, enhancement in heart function, increase in growth factors such as BDNF, IGF, and VEGF, and decrease inflammation in brain and peripheral tissues. These parameters contribute to maintenance of cognitive function.
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Objective: To determine the effects of walking meditation (WM) on functional performance, disease severity, and anxiety in Parkinson's disease (PD). Design: This was a randomized controlled trial. Settings: The study was conducted at a regional hospital. Subjects/Interventions: Thirty-three participants with PD were randomly allocated to the control (CON) group (n = 16) or the WM group (n = 17). Participants in the WM group were asked to perform WM monthly under supervision and encouraged to practice at home at least 3 days/week for 12 weeks. Outcome measurements: Gait velocity, Timed Up and Go, five times sit to stand (FTSTS) test, Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), and the percentage of participants with anxiety (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-part anxiety [HADS-A] ≥8). Results: Both groups showed reduced gait velocity (p < 0.05), although impairment of the FTSTS (p < 0.05) score was observed only in the CON group. A significant enhancement within and between groups in the total UPDRS and UPDRS part II scores was observed only in the WM group. The percentage of participants with anxiety (HADS-A ≥ 8) decreased significantly only in the WM group (p < 0.05), compared with the baseline and after 12 weeks. There was no loss to follow-up in the WM group, and the participation rate of training was 3.2 days/week. Conclusions: Home-based WM can encourage high rates of exercise adherence, reduce disease severity, lower the percentage of participants with anxiety, and might be suitable during disease endemic and/or pandemic in PD. The protocol was registered on Thaiclinicaltrials.org (Identifier: TCTR20201009001).
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The often pernicious neuropsychological effects following a mild traumatic brain injury can persist for months or even years. Symptoms associated with head injury can include headaches, orthostatic hypotension, trouble sleeping, slower processing speed, fatigue, and impairments in attention, memory, and executive functioning. These symptoms can be exacerbated as well as maintained via depression and anxiety. Collectively, this is known as persistent post-concussive syndrome. Interventions to alleviate these symptoms are lacking, expensive, and/or time-consuming. Currently, there has been a surge of interest into the neuroanatomical and neuropsychological correlates of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Evidence suggests that an 8-week MBSR program and its variants may increase cortical gray matter in specific areas such as the hippocampus, portions of the cerebellum, right thalamus, orbital frontal cortex, and other areas. Moreover, the literature suggests that such a program has evidenced improved scores on measures of attention, memory, and executive functioning. The extant literatures pertaining to mild traumatic brain injury, persistent post-concussive syndrome, and MBSR are reviewed here. Considerations for future empirical studies to validate the plausibility of using such a program as a neurorehabilitative intervention are suggested.
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Does the structure of an adult human brain alter in response to environmental demands? Here we use whole-brain magnetic-resonance imaging to visualize learning-induced plasticity in the brains of volunteers who have learned to juggle. We find that these individuals show a transient and selective structural change in brain areas that are associated with the processing and storage of complex visual motion. This discovery of a stimulus-dependent alteration in the brain's macroscopic structure contradicts the traditionally held view that cortical plasticity is associated with functional rather than anatomical changes.
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Structural MRIs of the brains of humans with extensive navigation experience, licensed London taxi drivers, were analyzed and compared with those of control subjects who did not drive taxis. The posterior hippocampi of taxi drivers were significantly larger relative to those of control subjects. A more anterior hippocampal region was larger in control subjects than in taxi drivers. Hippocampal volume correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver (positively in the posterior and negatively in the anterior hippocampus). These data are in accordance with the idea that the posterior hippocampus stores a spatial representation of the environment and can expand regionally to accommodate elaboration of this representation in people with a high dependence on navigational skills. It seems that there is a capacity for local plastic change in the structure of the healthy adult human brain in response to environmental demands.
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Breathing is a vital behavior that is particularly amenable to experimental investigation. We review recent progress on three problems of broad interest. (i) Where and how is respiratory rhythm generated? The preBötzinger Complex is a critical site, whereas pacemaker neurons may not be essential. The possibility that coupled oscillators are involved is considered. (ii) What are the mechanisms that underlie the plasticity necessary for adaptive changes in breathing? Serotonin-dependent long-term facilitation following intermittent hypoxia is an important example of such plasticity, and a model that can account for this adaptive behavior is discussed. (iii) Where and how are the regulated variables CO2 and pH sensed? These sensors are essential if breathing is to be appropriate for metabolism. Neurons with appropriate chemosensitivity are spread throughout the brainstem; their individual properties and collective role are just beginning to be understood.
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To investigate the functional neuroanatomy of voluntary respiratory control, blood O2 level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in six healthy right-handed individuals during voluntary hyperpnea. Functional images of the whole brain were acquired during 30-s periods of spontaneous breathing alternated with 30-s periods of isocapnic hyperpnea [spontaneous vs. voluntary: tidal volume = 0.5 +/- 0.01 vs. 1.3 +/- 0.1 (SE) liters and breath duration = 4.0 +/- 0.4 vs. 3.2 +/- 0.4 (SE) s]. For the group, voluntary hyperpnea was associated with significant (P < 0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons) neural activity bilaterally in the primary sensory and motor cortices, supplementary motor area, cerebellum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, and globus pallidum. Significant increases in activity were also identified in the medulla (corrected for multiple comparisons on the basis of a small volume correction for a priori region of interest) in a superior dorsal position (P = 0.012). Activity within the medulla suggests that the brain stem respiratory centers may have a role in mediating the voluntary control of breathing in humans.
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Humans have a unique ability to learn more than one language--a skill that is thought to be mediated by functional (rather than structural) plastic changes in the brain. Here we show that learning a second language increases the density of grey matter in the left inferior parietal cortex and that the degree of structural reorganization in this region is modulated by the proficiency attained and the age at acquisition. This relation between grey-matter density and performance may represent a general principle of brain organization.
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Unlike younger women, the risk of cardiovascular disease in older women matches or exceeds that of men. Excessive cortisol may play a role in this increased risk. Here we explore the possibility that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program may reduce the cortisol response to a metabolic stressor as a way of reducing disease risk in older women. Data from 16 women who were long-term practitioners of transcendental meditation (mean = 23 y) were compared with data from 14 control women matched for age (mean = 75 y, range = 65-92 y). Data on demographics, disease symptoms, and psychological variables were collected, and cortisol response to a metabolic stressor (75 g of glucose, orally) was examined in saliva and urine. Pre-glucose levels of salivary cortisol were identical for the two groups. Post-glucose cortisol rose faster in the controls and was significantly higher than that in the TM women (P < 1 3 10(-4)). Urinary excretion of cortisol during this period was 3 times higher in controls than in the TM women (2.4 +/- 0.17 and 0.83 +/- 0.10 microg/h, respectively; P = 2 x 10(-4)). In addition, the number of months practicing transcendental meditation was inversely correlated with CVD risk factors. Lower cortisol response to metabolic challenge may reflect improved endocrine regulation relevant to the disease-preventing effects of transcendental meditation in older women.
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Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain's physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.
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Neuroelectric and imaging studies of meditation are reviewed. Electroencephalographic measures indicate an overall slowing subsequent to meditation, with theta and alpha activation related to proficiency of practice. Sensory evoked potential assessment of concentrative meditation yields amplitude and latency changes for some components and practices. Cognitive event-related potential evaluation of meditation implies that practice changes attentional allocation. Neuroimaging studies indicate increased regional cerebral blood flow measures during meditation. Taken together, meditation appears to reflect changes in anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal areas. Neurophysiological meditative state and trait effects are variable but are beginning to demonstrate consistent outcomes for research and clinical applications. Psychological and clinical effects of meditation are summarized, integrated, and discussed with respect to neuroimaging data.
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The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees. We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
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Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test. Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.
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Previous studies showed that heart period decreases during and recovers after an acute stress. We investigated if individual predispositions and emotional priming influence heart period recovery after a speech stress task. Psychometric scales and resting cardiac vagal tone were used to measure individual traits. The presentation of a sequence of either pleasant or unpleasant pictures, as emotional primers, preceded the speech stress. Heart period was measured throughout the experiment. Stress induced tachycardia irrespective of emotional priming or traits. In the recovery period, participants with higher resting cardiac vagal tone or presenting higher resilience significantly reduced the heart acceleration. Furthermore, these traits interacted synergistically in the promotion of the recovery of heart period. Pleasant priming also improved recovery for participants with lower negative affect. In conclusion, the stress recovery measured through heart period seemed dependent upon individual predispositions and emotional priming. These findings further strengthen previous observations on the association between greater cardiac vagal tone and the ability to regulate emotion.
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Recent studies suggest that months to years of intensive and systematic meditation training can improve attention. However, the lengthy training required has made it difficult to use random assignment of participants to conditions to confirm these findings. This article shows that a group randomly assigned to 5 days of meditation practice with the integrative body-mind training method shows significantly better attention and control of stress than a similarly chosen control group given relaxation training. The training method comes from traditional Chinese medicine and incorporates aspects of other meditation and mindfulness training. Compared with the control group, the experimental group of 40 undergraduate Chinese students given 5 days of 20-min integrative training showed greater improvement in conflict scores on the Attention Network Test, lower anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue, and higher vigor on the Profile of Mood States scale, a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol, and an increase in immunoreactivity. These results provide a convenient method for studying the influence of meditation training by using experimental and control methods similar to those used to test drugs or other interventions.
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At its simplest, voxel-based morphometry (VBM) involves a voxel-wise comparison of the local concentration of gray matter between two groups of subjects. The procedure is relatively straightforward and involves spatially normalizing high-resolution images from all the subjects in the study into the same stereotactic space. This is followed by segmenting the gray matter from the spatially normalized images and smoothing the gray-matter segments. Voxel-wise parametric statistical tests which compare the smoothed gray-matter images from the two groups are performed. Corrections for multiple comparisons are made using the theory of Gaussian random fields. This paper describes the steps involved in VBM, with particular emphasis on segmenting gray matter from MR images with nonuniformity artifact. We provide evaluations of the assumptions that underpin the method, including the accuracy of the segmentation and the assumptions made about the statistical distribution of the data.
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We studied the effect of transcendental meditation (TM) on breathing using 16 experienced meditators and 16 control subjects. In controls, there was no significant difference in minute ventilation (VE), respiratory pattern, or hypercapnic response, whether breathing with eyes open-awake (CA), or with eyes closed-relaxing (CR). In meditators, VE decreased significantly during quiet breathing from 14.0 +/- 0.7 1/min with eyes open-awake (MA) to 12.4 +/- 0.6 1/min during meditation (MM) (P less than 0.02). The change in VE during meditation was due to a decrease in tidal volume (VT) resulting from a shortened inspiratory time (TI). Meditation was associated with a decreased response to progressive hypercapnia from 3.7 +/- 0.4 to 2.5 +/- 0.21 X min-1 X Torr-1 during MA and MM trials, respectively (P less than 0.01). During meditation VT was smaller at a given alveolar PCO2 than during MA studies because of a decrease in mean inspiratory flow rate (VT/TI). These observations suggest that an alteration in wakefulness, more subtle than sleep or the unconscious state, can significantly affect the chemical and neural regulation of breathing.
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Although psychological modulation of immune function is now a well-established phenomenon, much of the relevant literature has been published within the last decade. This article speculates on future directions for psychoneuroimmunology research, after reviewing the history of the field. This review focuses on human psychoneuroimmunology studies published since 1939, particularly those that have appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine. Studies were clustered according to key themes, including stressor duration and characteristics (laboratory stressors, time-limited naturalistic stressors, or chronic stress), as well as the influences of psychopathology, personality, and interpersonal relationships; the responsiveness of the immune system to behavioral interventions is also addressed. Additionally, we describe trends in populations studied and the changing nature of immunological assessments. The final section focuses on health outcomes and future directions for the field. There are now sufficient data to conclude that immune modulation by psychosocial stressors or interventions can lead to actual health changes, with the strongest direct evidence to date in infectious disease and wound healing. Furthermore, recent medical literature has highlighted a spectrum of diseases whose onset and course may be influenced by proinflammatory cytokines, from cardiovascular disease to frailty and functional decline; proinflammatory cytokine production can be directly stimulated by negative emotions and stressful experiences and indirectly stimulated by chronic or recurring infections. Accordingly, distress-related immune dysregulation may be one core mechanism behind a diverse set of health risks associated with negative emotions. We suggest that psychoneuroimmunology may have broad implications for the basic biological sciences and medicine.
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The role of the mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in memory retrieval is examined and compared with the role of the mid-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the monitoring of information in memory. It has been argued that the mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (areas 47/12 and 45) is involved in the active retrieval of information from posterior cortical association areas. Active retrieval is required when stimuli in memory do not bear stable relations to each other and therefore retrieval cannot be automatically driven by strong, stable, and unambiguous stimulus or context relations. Data from functional activation studies with normal human subjects are presented that have demonstrated specific changes in activity within the mid-ventrolateral region of the frontal cortex in relation to the active retrieval of information from memory. By contrast, increases in activity in the mid-dorsolateral region of the frontal cortex occur when the performance of the tasks requires monitoring of information in memory.
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Practitioners understand "meditation," or mental training, to be a process of familiarization with one's own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion. Little is known about this process and its impact on the brain. Here we find that long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. These electroencephalogram patterns differ from those of controls, in particular over lateral frontoparietal electrodes. In addition, the ratio of gamma-band activity (25-42 Hz) to slow oscillatory activity (4-13 Hz) is initially higher in the resting baseline before meditation for the practitioners than the controls over medial frontoparietal electrodes. This difference increases sharply during meditation over most of the scalp electrodes and remains higher than the initial baseline in the postmeditation baseline. These data suggest that mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural changes.
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A common theme in theories of subjective awareness poses a self-related "observer" function, or a homunculus, as a critical element without which awareness can not emerge. Here, we examined this question using fMRI. In our study, we compared brain activity patterns produced by a demanding sensory categorization paradigm to those engaged during self-reflective introspection, using similar sensory stimuli. Our results show a complete segregation between the two patterns of activity. Furthermore, regions that showed enhanced activity during introspection underwent a robust inhibition during the demanding perceptual task. The results support the notion that self-related processes are not necessarily engaged during sensory perception and can be actually suppressed.
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The current view regarding human long-term memory as an active process of encoding and retrieval includes a highly specific learning-induced functional plasticity in a network of multiple memory systems. Voxel-based morphometry was used to detect possible structural brain changes associated with learning. Magnetic resonance images were obtained at three different time points while medical students learned for their medical examination. During the learning period, the gray matter increased significantly in the posterior and lateral parietal cortex bilaterally. These structural changes did not change significantly toward the third scan during the semester break 3 months after the exam. The posterior hippocampus showed a different pattern over time: the initial increase in gray matter during the learning period was even more pronounced toward the third time point. These results indicate that the acquisition of a great amount of highly abstract information may be related to a particular pattern of structural gray matter changes in particular brain areas.
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Meditation refers to a family of mental training practices that are designed to familiarize the practitioner with specific types of mental processes. One of the most basic forms of meditation is concentration meditation, in which sustained attention is focused on an object such as a small visual stimulus or the breath. In age-matched participants, using functional MRI, we found that activation in a network of brain regions typically involved in sustained attention showed an inverted u-shaped curve in which expert meditators (EMs) with an average of 19,000 h of practice had more activation than novices, but EMs with an average of 44,000 h had less activation. In response to distracter sounds used to probe the meditation, EMs vs. novices had less brain activation in regions related to discursive thoughts and emotions and more activation in regions related to response inhibition and attention. Correlation with hours of practice suggests possible plasticity in these mechanisms. • attention • frontal • parietal • response inhibition
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Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging.
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From an early age, musicians learn complex motor and auditory skills (e.g., the translation of visually perceived musical symbols into motor commands with simultaneous auditory monitoring of output), which they practice extensively from childhood throughout their entire careers. Using a voxel-by-voxel morphometric technique, we found gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when comparing professional musicians (keyboard players) with a matched group of amateur musicians and non-musicians. Although some of these multiregional differences could be attributable to innate predisposition, we believe they may represent structural adaptations in response to long-term skill acquisition and the repetitive rehearsal of those skills. This hypothesis is supported by the strong association we found between structural differences, musician status, and practice intensity, as well as the wealth of supporting animal data showing structural changes in response to long-term motor training. However, only future experiments can determine the relative contribution of predisposition and practice.
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Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.
Zen and the brain: toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness
  • Austin