Zen Meditation: An Integration of Current Evidence

Institute of Psychiatry, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) (Impact Factor: 1.59). 06/2009; 15(5):585-92. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2008.0416
Source: PubMed


Despite the growing interest in the neurobiological and clinical correlates of many meditative practices, in particular mindfulness meditations, no review has specifically focused on current evidence on electroencephalographic, neuroimaging, biological, and clinical evidence about an important traditional practice, Zen meditation.
A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, the ISI Web of Knowledge, the Cochrane collaboration database, and references of selected articles. Randomized controlled and cross-sectional studies with controls published in English prior to May 2008 were included.
Electroencephalographic studies on Zen meditation found increased alpha and theta activity, generally related to relaxation, in many brain regions, including the frontal cortex. Theta activity in particular seemed to be related to the degree of experience, being greater in expert practitioners and advanced masters. Moreover, Zen meditation practice could protect from cognitive decline usually associated with age and enhance antioxidant activity. From a clinical point of view, Zen meditation was found to reduce stress and blood pressure, and be efficacious for a variety of conditions, as suggested by positive findings in therapists and musicians.
To date, actual evidence about Zen meditation is scarce and highlights the necessity of further investigations. Comparison with further active treatments, explanation of possible mechanisms of action, and the limitations of current evidence are discussed.

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    • "Electroencephalographic, neuroimaging, biological and clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness practice may reduce stress and blood pressure, and be efficacious for a variety of conditions (Chiesa, 2009). As well as benefiting clinicians' lives in these ways (Chiesa, 2009), there are psychologists, doctors and others who consider regular mindfulness practice as benefiting therapeutic relationships (Epstein, 1999; Katzow & Safran, 2007; Stange, Piegorsh, & Miller, 2003; Robins, 2002; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Mindfulness practice by clinicians has shown positive influence in the therapeutic course and treatment results of clients (Grepmair et al., 2007) and in bringing mindfulness to their relationships with clients, nurses have reported being more fully present and less reactive (Campbell, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Mindfulness practice by clinicians may benefit therapeutic relationships and improve treatment results. This paper aims to present a behavioural scientific model of mindful practice for nursing. It demonstrates how this model works through the example of a nursing student's structured reflection. The model, which proposes specific reflective cues, may help nurses and other professionals to clarify where greater mindfulness could benefit their own work. The question of the extent to which and in what ways this mode of learning to be mindful in professional practice is useful, warrants further investigation.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Reflective Practice
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    • "It is well known that alpha power represent the degree of the relaxation state and to what extent a subject is immersed in a meditative state, especially in the non-expert meditation (Chiesa, 2009). Alpha power also represent an cortical inhibition as an active process for information processing where ERD can be interpreted as release from inhibition and ERS (increase in alpha amplitude) reflecting the inhibitory aspect of alpha band oscillations (Klimesch, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study is aimed to determine significant physiological parameters of brain and heart under meditative state, both in each activities and their dynamic correlations. Electrophysiological changes in response to meditation were explored in 12 healthy volunteers who completed 8 weeks of a basic training course in autogenic meditation. Heart coherence, representing the degree of ordering in oscillation of heart rhythm intervals, increased significantly during meditation. Relative EEG alpha power and alpha lagged coherence also increased. A significant slowing of parietal peak alpha frequency was observed. Parietal peak alpha power increased with increasing heart coherence during meditation, but no such relationship was observed during baseline. Average alpha lagged coherence also increased with increasing heart coherence during meditation, but weak opposite relationship was observed at baseline. Relative alpha power increased with increasing heart coherence during both meditation and baseline periods. Heart coherence can be a cardiac marker for the meditative state and also may be a general marker for the meditative state since heart coherence is strongly correlated with EEG alpha activities. It is expected that increasing heart coherence and the accompanying EEG alpha activations, heart brain synchronicity, would help recover physiological synchrony following a period of homeostatic depletion.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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    • "Various forms of contemplative practice, including meditation, have recently become the subject of intensive scientific research (Ospina et al., 2007; Chiesa, 2009, 2010; Rubia, 2009; Chiesa and Serretti, 2010; Green and Turner, 2010). From a neuroscience perspective , one of the main research goals is to determine which brain regions mediate the cognitive aspects of various practices. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study sought to examine the effect of meditation experience on brain networks underlying cognitive actions employed during contemplative practice. In a previous study, we proposed a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations that occur during the practice of focused attention meditation. This model specifies four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering (MW), awareness of MW, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. Using subjective input from experienced practitioners during meditation, we identified activity in salience network regions during awareness of MW and executive network regions during shifting and sustained attention. Brain regions associated with the default mode were active during MW. In the present study, we reasoned that repeated activation of attentional brain networks over years of practice may induce lasting functional connectivity changes within relevant circuits. To investigate this possibility, we created seeds representing the networks that were active during the four phases of the earlier study, and examined functional connectivity during the resting state in the same participants. Connectivity maps were then contrasted between participants with high vs. low meditation experience. Participants with more meditation experience exhibited increased connectivity within attentional networks, as well as between attentional regions and medial frontal regions. These neural relationships may be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction, that are often reported with meditation practice. Furthermore, because altered connectivity of brain regions in experienced meditators was observed in a non-meditative (resting) state, this may represent a transference of cognitive abilities "off the cushion" into daily life.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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