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An empirical examination of the factor structure of compassion

An empirical examination of the factor structure of compassion | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Compassion has long been regarded as a core part of our humanity by contemplative traditions, and in recent years, it has received growing research interest. Following a recent review of existing conceptualisations, compassion has been defined as consisting of the following five elements: 1) recognising suffering, 2) understanding the universality of suffering in human experience, 3) feeling moved by the person suffering and emotionally connecting with their distress, 4) tolerating uncomfortable feelings aroused (e.g., fear, distress) so that we remain open to and accepting of the person suffering, and 5) acting or being motivated to act to alleviate suffering. As a prerequisite to developing a high quality compassion measure and furthering research in this field, the current study empirically investigated the factor structure of the five-element definition using a combination of existing and newly generated self-report items. This study consisted of three stages: a systematic consultation with experts to review items from existing self-report measures of compassion and generate additional items (Stage 1), exploratory factor analysis of items gathered from Stage 1 to identify the underlying structure of compassion (Stage 2), and confirmatory factor analysis to validate the identified factor structure (Stage 3). Findings showed preliminary empirical support for a five-factor structure of compassion consistent with the five-element definition. However, findings indicated that the ‘tolerating’ factor may be problematic and not a core aspect of compassion. This possibility requires further empirical testing. Limitations with items from included measures lead us to recommend against using these items collectively to assess compassion. Instead, we call for the development of a new self-report measure of compassion, using the five-element definition to guide item generation. We recommend including newly generated ‘tolerating’ items in the initial item pool, to determine whether or not factor-level issues are resolved once item-level issues are addressed.
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Contemplative Neuroscience
curated research and relevant news for contemplative neuroscience, mindfulness, the self, and consciousness
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Tai chi can benefit mind & body

Tai chi can benefit mind & body | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Sometimes, a martial art can be peaceful. Tai chi is a mind and body exercise rooted in a number of Asian traditions, including martial arts, which
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Anxiety, Depression Improved by Mindfulness Meditation

Anxiety, Depression Improved by Mindfulness Meditation | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Mindfulness meditation was associated with improvements in measures of anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts.
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Markers of TMS-evoked visual conscious experience in a patient with altitudinal hemianopia

Publication date: Available online 16 February 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition
Author(s): Chiara Mazzi, Gaetano Mazzeo, Silvia Savazzi
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the occipital and parietal cortices can induce phosphenes, i.e. visual sensations of light without light entering the eyes. In this paper, we adopted a TMS-EEG interactive co-registration approach with a patient (AM) showing altitudinal hemianopia. Occipital and parietal cortices in both hemispheres were stimulated while concurrently recording EEG signal. Results showed that, for all sites, neural activity differentially encoding for the presence vs. absence of a conscious experience could be found in a cluster of electrodes close to the stimulation site at an early (70ms) time-period after TMS. The present data indicate that both occipital and parietal sites are independent early gatekeepers of perceptual awareness, thus, in line with evidence in favor of early correlates of perceptual awareness. Moreover, these data support the valuable contribution of the TMS-EEG approach in patients with visual field defects to investigate the neural processes responsible for perceptual awareness.
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Publication date: February 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 48
Author(s): Veena Kumari, Elena Antonova, Bernice Wright, Aseel Hamid, Eva Machado Hernandez, Anne Schmechtig, Ulrich Ettinger
Background This study examined the effects of cultivated (i.e. developed through training) and dispositional (trait) mindfulness on smooth pursuit (SPEM) and antisaccade (AS) tasks known to engage the fronto-parietal network implicated in attentional and motion detection processes, and the fronto-striatal network implicated in cognitive control, respectively. Methods Sixty healthy men (19–59years), of whom 30 were experienced mindfulness practitioners and 30 meditation-naïve, underwent infrared oculographic assessment of SPEM and AS performance. Trait mindfulness was assessed using the self-report Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). Results Meditators, relative to meditation-naïve individuals, made significantly fewer catch-up and anticipatory saccades during the SPEM task, and had significantly lower intra-individual variability in gain and spatial error during the AS task. No SPEM or AS measure correlated significantly with FFMQ scores in meditation-naïve individuals. Conclusions Cultivated, but not dispositional, mindfulness is associated with improved attention and sensorimotor control as indexed by SPEM and AS tasks.
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Publication date: March 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 49
Author(s): Michele Scandola, Salvatore Maria Aglioti, Renato Avesani, Gianettore Bertagnoni, Anna Marangoni, Valentina Moro
While several studies have investigated corporeal illusions in patients who have suffered from a stroke or undergone an amputation, only anecdotal or single case reports have explored this phenomenon after spinal cord injury. Here we examine various different types of bodily misperceptions in a comparatively large group of 49 people with spinal cord injury in the post-acute and chronic phases after the traumatic lesion onset. An extensive battery of questionnaires concerning a variety of body related feelings was administered and the results were correlated to the main clinical variables. Six different typologies of Corporeal Illusion emerged: Sensations of Body Loss; Body-Part Misperceptions; Somatoparaphrenia-like sensations; Disownership-like sensations; Illusory motion and Misoplegia. All of these (with the exception of Misoplegia) are modulated by clinical variables such as pain (visceral, neuropathic and musculoskeletal), completeness of the lesion, level of the lesion and the length of time since lesion onset. In contrast, no significant correlations between bodily illusions and personality variables were found. These results support data indicating that at least some cognitive functions (in particular the body, action and space representations) are embodied and that somatosensory input and motor output may be necessary to build and maintain a typical self-body representation.
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Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain | Annals of Internal Medicine | American College of Physicians

Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain | Annals of Internal Medicine | American College of Physicians | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
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Understanding the role of mind wandering in stress-related working memory impairments

Understanding the role of mind wandering in stress-related working memory impairments | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2016). Understanding the role of mind wandering in stress-related working memory impairments. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1179174
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Mindful attention predicts greater recovery from negative emotions, but not reduced reactivity

Mindful attention predicts greater recovery from negative emotions, but not reduced reactivity | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2016). Mindful attention predicts greater recovery from negative emotions, but not reduced reactivity. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1199422
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Individual differences in emotional processing and autobiographical memory: interoceptive awareness and alexithymia in the fading affect bias

Individual differences in emotional processing and autobiographical memory: interoceptive awareness and alexithymia in the fading affect bias | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2016). Individual differences in emotional processing and autobiographical memory: interoceptive awareness and alexithymia in the fading affect bias. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1225005
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Cognitive reactivity as outcome and working mechanism of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for recurrently depressed patients in remission

Cognitive reactivity as outcome and working mechanism of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for recurrently depressed patients in remission | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2017). Cognitive reactivity as outcome and working mechanism of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for recurrently depressed patients in remission. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2017.1285753
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The self and others in the experience of pride

The self and others in the experience of pride | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2017). The self and others in the experience of pride. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2017.1290586
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What happened to meditation research? | Meditation Research

What happened to meditation research? | Meditation Research | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Reviewing meditation and mindfulness research activities in 2016
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Brain mechanisms for loss of awareness of thought and movement | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Oxford Academic

<span class="paragraphSection">Loss or reduction of awareness is common in neuropsychiatric disorders and culturally influenced dissociative phenomena but the underlying brain mechanisms are poorly understood. fMRI was combined with suggestions for automatic writing in 18 healthy highly hypnotically suggestible individuals in a within-subjects design to determine if clinical alterations in awareness of thought and movement can be experimentally modelled and studied independently of illness. Subjective ratings of control, ownership, and awareness of thought and movement, and fMRI data were collected following suggestions for thought insertion and alien control of writing movement, with and without loss of awareness. Subjective ratings confirmed that suggestions were effective. At the neural level, our main findings indicated that loss of awareness for both thought and movement during automatic writing was associated with reduced activation in a predominantly left-sided posterior cortical network including BA 7 (superior parietal lobule and precuneus), and posterior cingulate cortex, involved in self-related processing and awareness of the body in space. Reduced activity in posterior parietal cortices may underlie specific clinical and cultural alterations in awareness of thought and movement. Clinically these findings may assist development of imaging assessments for loss of awareness of psychological origin, and interventions such as neurofeedback.</span>
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Frontiers | Increased Evoked Potentials to Arousing Auditory Stimuli during Sleep: Implication for the Understanding of Dream Recall | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Frontiers | Increased Evoked Potentials to Arousing Auditory Stimuli during Sleep: Implication for the Understanding of Dream Recall | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
High dream recallers (HR) show a larger brain reactivity to auditory stimuli during wakefulness and sleep as compared to low dream recallers (LR) and also more intra-sleep wakefulness, but no other modification of the sleep macrostructure. To further understand the possible causal link between brain responses, intra-sleep wakefulness and dream recall, we investigated the sleep microstructure of HR and LR, and tested whether the amplitude of auditory evoked potentials was predictive of arousing reactions during sleep. Participants (18 HR, 18 LR) were presented with sounds during a whole night of sleep in the lab and polysomnographic data were recorded. Sleep microstructure (arousals, rapid eye movements, muscle twitches, spindles, K-complexes) was assessed using visual, semi-automatic and automatic validated methods. Auditory evoked potentials to arousing (awakenings or arousals) and non-arousing stimuli were subsequently computed. No between-group difference in the microstructure of sleep was found. In N2 sleep, auditory arousing stimuli elicited a larger parieto-occipital positivity and an increased late frontal negativity as compared to non-arousing stimuli. As compared to LR, HR showed more arousing stimuli and more long awakenings, regardless of the sleep stage but did not show more numerous or longer arousals. These results suggest that the amplitude of the brain response to stimuli during sleep determine subsequent awakening and that awakening duration (and not arousal) is the critical parameter for dream recall. Notably, our results led us to propose that the minimum necessary duration of an awakening during sleep for a successful encoding of dreams into long-term memory is approximately 2 minutes.
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Publication date: March 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 49
Author(s): Lisa M. Fitzgerald, Mahnaz Arvaneh, Paul M. Dockree
Metacognition and self-awareness are commonly assumed to operate as global capacities. However, there have been few attempts to test this assumption across multiple cognitive domains and metacognitive evaluations. Here, we assessed the covariance between “online” metacognitive processes, as measured by decision confidence judgments in the domains of perception and memory, and error awareness in the domain of attention to action. Previous research investigating metacognition across task domains have not matched stimulus characteristics across tasks raising the possibility that any differences in metacognitive accuracy may be influenced by local task properties. The current experiment measured metacognition in perceptual, memorial and attention tasks that were closely matched for stimulus characteristics. We found that metacognitive accuracy across the three tasks was dissociated suggesting that domain specific networks support an individual’s capacity for accurate metacognition. This finding was independent of objective performance, which was controlled using a staircase procedure. However, response times for metacognitive judgments and error awareness were associated suggesting that shared mechanisms determining how these meta-level evaluations unfold in time may underlie these different types of decision. In addition, the relationship between these laboratory measures of metacognition and reports of everyday functioning from participants and their significant others (informants) was investigated. We found that informant reports, but not self reports, predicted metacognitive accuracy on the perceptual task and participants who underreported cognitive difficulties relative to their informants also showed poorer metacognitive accuracy on the perceptual task. These results are discussed in the context of models of metacognitive regulation and neuropsychological evidence for dissociable metacognitive systems. The potential for the refinement of metacognitive assessment in clinical populations is also discussed.
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Publication date: March 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 49
Author(s): Wolfgang Prinz
This paper outlines an Import Theory of subjectivity and selfhood. Import theory claims that subjectivity is initially perceived as a key feature of other minds before it then becomes imported from other minds to own minds whereby it lays the ground for mental selfhood. Import theory builds on perception-production matching, which in turn draws on both representational mechanisms and social practices. Representational mechanisms rely on common coding of perception and production. Social practices rely on action mirroring in dyadic interactions. The interplay between mechanisms and practices gives rise to model self on others. Individuals become intentional agents in virtue of perceiving others mirroring themselves. The outline of the theory is preceded by an introductory section that locates import theory in the broader context of competing approaches, and it is followed by a concluding section that assesses import theory in terms of empirical evidence and explanatory power.
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Publication date: March 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 49
Author(s): Frederick Travis, Niyazi Parim, Amrita Shrivastava
This study compared subjective experiences and EEG patterns in 37 subjects when listening to live Vedic recitation and when practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM). Content analysis of experiences when listening to Vedic recitation yielded three higher-order code. Experiences during Vedic recitation were: (1) deeper than during TM practice; (2) experienced as an inner process; and (3) characterized by lively silence. EEG patterns support these higher-order codes. Theta2 and alpha1 frontal, parietal, and frontal-parietal coherence were significantly higher when listening to Vedic recitation, than during TM practice. Theta2 coherence is seen when attending to internal mental processes. Higher theta2 coherence supports subjects’ descriptions that the Vedic recitations were “not external sounds but internal vibrations.” Alpha1 coherence is reported during pure consciousness experiences during TM practice. Higher alpha1 coherence supports subjects’ descriptions that they “experienced a depth of experience, rarely experienced even during deep TM practice.” These data support the utility of listening to Vedic recitation to culture deep inner experiences.
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Depressive Symptoms Linked to Minor Adverse Cardiovascular Events

Depressive Symptoms Linked to Minor Adverse Cardiovascular Events | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Depressive symptoms are associated with increased incidence of adverse cardiovascular events.
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Resting-state connectivity biomarkers define neurophysiological subtypes of depression : Nature Medicine : Nature Research

Resting-state connectivity biomarkers define neurophysiological subtypes of depression : Nature Medicine : Nature Research | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Using functional MRI in a large multisite sample of more that 1,000 patients, four distinct neurophysiological biotypes of depression are defined. These biotypes are used to develop diagnostic classifiers that distinguish patients with depression from controls in separate multisite validation and replication cohorts, and can predict patient responsiveness to therapy.
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Brian Chew's comment, March 8, 10:33 AM
I feel that this is great news. With the discovery of the new subtypes of depression, it would be easier for doctors or psychologists to know how to cure a patient from his/her form of depression. Currently depression is a rising problem around the world, and it is mainly treated only by counselling, by a psychiatrist's treatment or by medicine. However, with this new discovery, it would mean that it is possible to treat a few subtypes of depression with neurostimulation, which could be great news to a lot of people, and also maybe hopeful in the breakthrough of curing and/or preventing it.
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What elicits third-party anger? The effects of moral violation and others’ outcome on anger and compassion

What elicits third-party anger? The effects of moral violation and others’ outcome on anger and compassion | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2016). What elicits third-party anger? The effects of moral violation and others’ outcome on anger and compassion. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1194258
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Meditation in virtual reality: it’s like French philosophy meets the Matrix

Meditation in virtual reality: it’s like French philosophy meets the Matrix | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
There’s no paradox in finding your true self via virtual reality because everyday reality is a simulation, says self-help guru Deepak Chopra of his latest venture
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A better state-of-mind: deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children

A better state-of-mind: deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2016). A better state-of-mind: deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1233095
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Networks of self-defining memories as a contributing factor to emotional openness

Networks of self-defining memories as a contributing factor to emotional openness | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
(2017). Networks of self-defining memories as a contributing factor to emotional openness. Cognition and Emotion. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2017.1284045
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Higher Heart-Rate Variability Is Associated with Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Activity and Increased Resistance to Temptation in Dietary Self-Control Challenges

Higher Heart-Rate Variability Is Associated with Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Activity and Increased Resistance to Temptation in Dietary Self-Control Challenges | Contemplative Neuroscience | Scoop.it
Higher levels of self-control in decision making have been linked to better psychosocial and physical health. A similar link to health outcomes has been reported for heart-rate variability (HRV), a marker of physiological flexibility. Here, we sought to link these two, largely separate, research domains by testing the hypothesis that greater HRV would be associated with better dietary self-control in humans. Specifically, we examined whether total HRV at sedentary rest (measured as the SD of normal-to-normal intervals) can serve as a biomarker for the neurophysiological adaptability that putatively underlies self-controlled behavior. We found that HRV explained a significant portion of the individual variability in dietary self-control, with individuals having higher HRV being better able to downregulate their cravings in the face of taste temptations. Furthermore, HRV was associated with activity patterns in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a key node in the brain's valuation and decision circuitry. Specifically, individuals with higher HRV showed both higher overall vmPFC blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity and attenuated taste representations when presented with a dietary self-control challenge. Last, the behavioral and neural associations with HRV were consistent across both our stress induction and control experimental conditions. The stability of this association across experimental conditions suggests that HRV may serve as both a readily obtainable and robust biomarker for self-control ability across environmental contexts.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Self-control is associated with better health, but behavioral and psychometric self-control measures allow only indirect associations with health outcomes and may be distorted by reporting bias. We tested whether resting heart-rate variability (HRV), a physiological indicator of psychological and physical health, can predict individual differences in dietary self-control in humans. We found that higher HRV was associated with better self-control and improved predictions of choice behavior. Specifically, higher HRV was associated with more effective downregulation of taste temptations, and with a diminished neural representation of taste temptations during self-control challenges. Our results suggest that HRV may serve as an easily acquired, noninvasive, and low-cost biomarker for self-control ability.
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The mindful eye: Smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements in meditators and non-meditators

Publication date: February 2017
Source:Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 48
Author(s): Veena Kumari, Elena Antonova, Bernice Wright, Aseel Hamid, Eva Machado Hernandez, Anne Schmechtig, Ulrich Ettinger
Background This study examined the effects of cultivated (i.e. developed through training) and dispositional (trait) mindfulness on smooth pursuit (SPEM) and antisaccade (AS) tasks known to engage the fronto-parietal network implicated in attentional and motion detection processes, and the fronto-striatal network implicated in cognitive control, respectively. Methods Sixty healthy men (19–59years), of whom 30 were experienced mindfulness practitioners and 30 meditation-naïve, underwent infrared oculographic assessment of SPEM and AS performance. Trait mindfulness was assessed using the self-report Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). Results Meditators, relative to meditation-naïve individuals, made significantly fewer catch-up and anticipatory saccades during the SPEM task, and had significantly lower intra-individual variability in gain and spatial error during the AS task. No SPEM or AS measure correlated significantly with FFMQ scores in meditation-naïve individuals. Conclusions Cultivated, but not dispositional, mindfulness is associated with improved attention and sensorimotor control as indexed by SPEM and AS tasks.
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