Contemplative Science
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Contemplative Science
the science of meditation and other contemplative practices
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Special Issue on Mindfulness Neuroscience | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Special Issue on Mindfulness Neuroscience | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

From Editorial by Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael I Posner: 

Mindfulness neuroscience is a new, interdisciplinary field of mindfulness practice and neuroscientific research; it applies neuroimaging techniques, physiological measures and behavioral tests to explore the underlying mechanisms of different types, stages and states of mindfulness practice over the lifespan. Mindfulness-based meditation (MBM) or mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) has been a hot topic in psychology, neuroscience, health care and education in recent years (Chiesa and Serretti, 2010;Holzel et al., 2011), and publications have been rapidly growing from only 28 in 2001 to 397 papers listed in ISI during 2011. Many studies indicate the positive effects of MBM or MBI and researchers explore the mechanisms (Lutz et al., 2008; Tang and Posner, 2009; Chiesa and Serretti, 2010; Holzel et al., 2011; Tang et al., 2012a). However, the mechanisms of mindfulness practice are still poorly understood.

 

To improve the understanding of mindfulness mechanisms, we began a special issue on mindfulness neuroscience in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) in the fall of 2010 and invited more than 20 leading research laboratories in this field from all over the world. In this special issue, we include 12 peer-reviewed empirical articles using neuroimaging to address neural mechanisms and clinical issues in mindfulness neuroscience. The articles in this special issue offer a sample of the cutting-edge discoveries being made at the frontier of mindfulness neuroscience.

 

Special Issue on Mindfulness Neuroscience in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Vol 8, Issue 1, January 2013.

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

I know I have posted some of the individual articles presented here, but as I make my way through the rest of the issue, I thought the Table of Contents might be a handy post as well. My apologies if I've put this up already and forgotten. Spring weather is impairing my memory.  

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Database of Peer-Reviewed Contemplative Teaching and Learning Articles

Database of Peer-Reviewed Contemplative Teaching and Learning Articles | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

The Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL) Initiative of the Garrison

Institute has launched a searchable database of peer-reviewed

articles on K-12 contemplative education. A free, publicly accessible resource made possible by a generous grant from the 1440 Foundation, the database currently contains over 200 research articles, literature reviews, and construct validity studies. Initiative staff will continue to add new articles to maintain it as an up-to-date source of research in the field.

 

Users can search the database by several criteria that help identify the

studies that are most relevant to their work: author, journal, article

title and research focus (research on children and adolescents in schools,

research on children and adolescents in clinical settings, studies

involving teachers and research with parents).

 

Each article entry contains a complete APA citation, abstract and link to

the journal in which it was published. Whenever possible, a link to the

full text of the articles is also available.

 

The goal is to make the rapidly growing body of research on contemplative

education easier to find and access, and to give students and researchers a comprehensive yet focused collection of articles to promote further study and dialogue.

 

[Announcement from the MLRN Digest #52]

 
Eileen Cardillo's insight:

What a great resource!

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Татьяна Фокина's curator insight, April 29, 2013 2:00 AM

Инициатива по открытому доступу к статьям

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This is Your Brain on Meditation | Philadelphia Science Festival

This is Your Brain on Meditation | Philadelphia Science Festival | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"This is Your Brain on Meditation: The Benefits of Mindfulness"

Denise Clegg, MAPP

Meditation and mindfulness practices have been associated
with a wide range of mental and physical benefits. But what is it about mindfulness and meditation that foster well-being and buffers against the adverse effects of stress, anxiety, and depression? A discussion about the growing body of research on this topic will be followed by a short, guided session of mindfulness meditation.

 

Speaker Bio: Denise Clegg, MAPP, is the Managing Director of the Penn Center for Neuroscience & Society (www.neuroethics.upenn.edu) and a mindfulness meditation facilitator at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work is dedicated to advancing research, programs, and policies that have a positive social impact.


Thursday, April 25, 6:00 p.m.

Franklin Square Park Pavilion, 200 N. 6th St., Philadelphia, PA 19106

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Philadelphia Science Festival! Meditation and Brains! My colleague across the hall!

 

[Translation: I recommend]

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Applications Open: The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education summer institute

Applications Open: The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education summer institute | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

The purpose of the CCARE Summer Research Institute, a six-day conference to be held in Summer 2013, is to advance research on compassion and altruism through collaboration, dialog, inquiry, education, and research.

 

Drawing from several disciplines including neuroscience, psychology, genetics, economics, and contemplative traditions, the CCARE Summer Research Institute aims to examine compassion, altruism and prosocial behavior from a wide perspective of scientific angles. In particular, the institute will explore and discuss the neural correlates, biological bases and antecedents of compassion; the effects of compassion on behavior, physiology, overall health, and the brain; and methods, techniques, and programs for cultivating compassion and promoting altruism within individuals and society-wide. Compassion education programs will also be integrated into the curriculum.The long-term goal of the Summer Research Institute is to support young scientists who wish to focus their research on compassion, altruism, and prosocial behavior. 

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Another reason to go: Like the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute held the month before, The CCARE Summer Research Institute offers competitive pilot grant funding to its participants. 

 

Applications open till April 15th. 

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Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone

Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Focusing on the present rather than letting the mind drift may help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research from the Shamatha Project at the University of California...This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale," said Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and first author of a paper describing the work."

 

ABSTRACT

Objective: Cognitive perseverations that include worry and rumination over past or future events may prolong cortisol release, which in turn may contribute to predisease pathways and adversely affect physical health. Meditation training may increase self-reported mindfulness, which has been linked to reductions in cognitive perseverations. However, there are no reports that directly link self-reported mindfulness and resting cortisol output. Here, the authors investigate this link. Methods: In an observational study, we measured self-reported mindfulness and p.m. cortisol near the beginning and end of a 3-month meditation retreat (N = 57). Results: Mindfulness increased from pre- to post-retreat.. Cortisol did not significantly change. However, mindfulness was inversely related to p.m. cortisol at pre-retreat.., and post-retreat.., controlling for age and body mass index. Pre to postchange in mindfulness was associated with pre to postchange in p.m. cortisol..Larger increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in p.m. cortisol, whereas smaller increases (or slight decreases) in mindfulness were associated with an increase in p.m. cortisol. Conclusions: These data suggest a relation between self-reported mindfulness and resting output of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system...

 

Jacobs, T. et al. (in press). Self-reported mindfulness and resting cortisol in a Shamatha meditation retreat. Health Psychology. Advanced publication online. doi: 10.1037/a0031362

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Modest but interesting new findings to come out of the Shamatha Project, the most comprehensive long-term investigation to date of the physical and cognitive effects of meditation. 

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Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering | Psychological Science

Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering | Psychological Science | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: Given that the ability to attend to a task without distraction underlies performance in a wide variety of contexts, training one’s ability to stay on task should result in a similarly broad enhancement of performance. In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a 2-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory. Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting. Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.

 

Mrazek, M.D. et al. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/0956797612459659

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

William James, you didn't have GRE scores in mind, but still, you called it: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will… An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”  

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Training the emotional brain: Improving affective control through emotional working memory training | J of Neuroscience

Training the emotional brain: Improving affective control through emotional working memory training | J of Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: Affective cognitive control capacity (e.g., the ability to regulate emotions or manipulate emotional material in the service of task goals) is associated with professional and interpersonal success. Impoverished affective control, by contrast, characterizes many neuropsychiatric disorders. Insights from neuroscience indicate that affective cognitive control relies on the same frontoparietal neural circuitry as working memory (WM) tasks, which suggests that systematic WM training, performed in an emotional context, has the potential to augment affective control. Here we show, using behavioral and fMRI measures, that 20 d of training on a novel emotional WM protocol successfully enhanced the efficiency of this frontoparietal demand network. Critically, compared with placebo training, emotional WM training also accrued transfer benefits to a “gold standard” measure of affective cognitive control–emotion regulation. These emotion regulation gains were associated with greater activity in the targeted frontoparietal demand network along with other brain regions implicated in affective control, notably the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. The results have important implications for the utility of WM training in clinical, prevention, and occupational settings.

 

Schweizer, S. et al. (in press) Training the emotional brain: Improving affective control through emotional working memory training. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(12), 5301-5311. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2593-12.2013

 

Photo credit: Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

"It should be noted, however, that the current study does not explicity test whether [training working memory in an emotion context] is more (or less) effective in improving [emotion regulation] capacity than other nonaffective types of WM training" (p.5302) Let's consider this comment by the authors a call for a comparative study with meditation/mindfulness.

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Empathy in Hippocampal Amnesia | Frontiers in Cognition

Empathy in Hippocampal Amnesia | Frontiers in Cognition | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: Empathy is critical to the quality of our relationships with others and plays an important role in life satisfaction and well-being. The scientific investigation of empathy has focused on characterizing its cognitive and neural substrates, and has pointed to the importance of a network of brain regions involved in emotional experience and perspective taking (e.g., ventromedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, anterior insula, cingulate). While the hippocampus has rarely been the focus of empathy research, the hallmark properties of the hippocampal declarative memory system (e.g., representational flexibility, relational binding, on-line processing capacity) make it well-suited to meet some of the crucial demands of empathy, and a careful investigation of this possibility could make a significant contribution to the neuroscientific understanding of empathy. The present study is a preliminary investigation of the role of the hippocampal declarative memory system in empathy. Participants were three patients (1 female) with focal, bilateral hippocampal (HC) damage and severe declarative memory impairments and three healthy demographically matched comparison participants. Empathy was measured as a trait through a battery of gold standard questionnaires and through on-line ratings and prosocial behavior in response to a series of empathy inductions. Patients with hippocampal amnesia reported lower cognitive and emotional trait empathy than healthy comparison participants. Unlike healthy comparison participants, in response to the empathy inductions hippocampal patients reported no increase in empathy ratings or prosocial behavior. The results provide preliminary evidence for a role for hippocampal declarative memory in empathy.

 

Beadle, J.N., Tranel, D., Cohen, N.J., & Duff, M.C. (2013). Empathy in hippocampal amnesia. Frontiers in Psychology, 22 March 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00069

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

The hippocampus is frequently found to differ between meditators and nonmeditators. Meditators have larger and denser hippocampi, and more advanced practitioners more strongly engage their hippocampi during meditation than less experienced individuals (see Luders et al, 2012 for review). These structural and functional differences are not typically attributed to increased empathic ability with meditation training, but it's a hypothesis worth pursuing. 

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Anterior insular cortex mediates bodily sensibility and social anxiety | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Anterior insular cortex mediates bodily sensibility and social anxiety | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: Studies in psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience have reported an important relationship between individual interoceptive accuracy and anxiety level. This indicates that greater attention to one’s bodily state may contribute to the development of intense negative emotions and anxiety disorders. We hypothesized that reactivity in the anterior insular cortex underlies the intensity of interoceptive awareness and anxiety. To elucidate this triadic mechanism, we conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and mediation analyses to examine the relationship between emotional disposition and activation in the anterior insular cortex while participants evaluated their own emotional and bodily states. Our results indicated that right anterior insular activation was positively correlated with individual levels of social anxiety and neuroticism and negatively correlated with agreeableness and extraversion. The results of the mediation analyses revealed that activity in the right anterior insula mediated the activity of neural correlates of interoceptive sensibility and social fear. Our findings suggest that attention to interoceptive sensation affects personality traits through how we feel emotion subjectively in various situations.

 

Terasawa, Y., et al (2013). Anterior insular cortex mediates bodily sensibility and social anxiety. Socail Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(3): 259-266.

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Haven't had a chance to read the whole article but this passage of intro caught my eye: "These findings indicate that greater attention to one’s own bodily state may contribute to the development of intense negative emotions and anxiety disorders. However, the psychological and neurological mechanisms of this relationship are not well understood." Meditation is known, anecodotally and empircally, to heighten interoceptive sensitivity and alter insular activity - but this increased awareness with meditation is not associated with increased anxiety in meditators (quite the contrary) so the relationship between these variables is clearly complex. 

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Contemplative Pedagogy Summer Sessions

Contemplative Pedagogy Summer Sessions | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

The Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy is an intense week-long investigation led by pioneers in contemplative education. It prepares higher education professionals with resources to support innovation in curriculum development, course design and the incorporation of contemplative awareness and practice within all aspects of higher education.

 

There will be sessions on the design principles of contemplative pedagogy; the relation between course content and contemplative practice; and the benefits of stabilized attention and other qualities of mind fostered by contemplative exercises. We will explore the rationale for contemplative approaches and how to communicate with students and colleagues about their inclusion. Practical issues such as evaluation and grading will also be considered.

 

August 4-9, 2013

Smith College, Northampton, MA

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Mindfulness Can Improve Your Attention and Health | Scientific American

Mindfulness Can Improve Your Attention and Health | Scientific American | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"The opposite of a wandering mind is a mindful one. Mindfulness is a mental mode of being engaged in the present moment without evaluating or emotionally reacting to it. Hundreds of articles lay out evidence showing that training to become more mindful reduces psychological stress and improves both mental and physical health, alleviating depression, anxiety, loneliness and chronic pain...Mindfulness training works, at least in part, by strengthening the brain's ability to pay attention."

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

University of Miami cognitive neuroscientist Amishi Jha reviews the evidence for the beneficial effects of mindfulness training and the importance of attention regulation in mediating those effects. It's a great overview of some of the key studies so far, including some very recent and compelling research.

 

My only quibble is with her assertion that these effects are *specific* to mindfulness training. For example, she writes, "mindfulness training uniquely builds the ability to direct attention at will through the sea of internal and external stimulation while also allowing for greater awareness of what is happening in the moment." We don't actually know that yet. We have insufficient data to so decisively reject the notion that other contemplative practices might not have similar effects - comparative studies are woefully lacking at this point.

 

Similarly, she writes, "Many sages, beginning with Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, have advocated repeated engagement in these forms of meditation as a route to increasing mindfulness in daily life." The Buddha certainly packaged mindfulness training in a novel religious and psychological framework, but I would not go so far as to claim that mindfulness training *began* with this historical figure. One of the most interesting questions for contemplative science to address in the future concerns which mechanisms, if any, are truly unique to Buddhist-inspired mindfulness practices. The jury is still out. 

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Online Therapist's curator insight, February 24, 2016 7:45 PM

Mindfulness training helps us develop more general awareness and more acuity of awareness.

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Naked Mind: the film

"From the Himalayas to US Neuroscience labs two filmmakers explore the effects of meditation and its potential for collective evolution...

 

Scientific discoveries are proving that meditation can be beneficial to individual and collective happiness, but what does this mean outside an Eastern Buddhist culture? In contemporary American life, the term "mindfulness" has become a buzzword across a huge range of disciplines, from psychology and medicine to education, social action, and prison reform. This film asks: What does mindfulness mean, how does it relate to human happiness, and what does it mean to practice mindfulness in today's society?"

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

I had the pleasure of meeting screenwriter Sarah McCarron at the recent Zen Brain meeting at the Upaya Zen Center. This documentary is ambitious and thoughtful, asking hard questions about meditation and featuring an impressive and diverse set of thinkers and practitioners. I hope their Kickstarter campaign is a success!

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The self: The one and only you | New Scientist

The self: The one and only you | New Scientist | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"THERE appear to be few things more certain to us than the existence of our selves. We might be sceptical about the existence of the worldaround us, but how could we be in doubt about the existence of us? Isn't doubt made impossible by the fact that there is somebody who is doubting something? Who, if not us, would this somebody be?

 

While it seems irrefutable that we must exist in some sense, things get a lot more puzzling once we try to get a better grip of what having a self actually amounts to..."

 

This special issue on The Self also includes articles on conditions that disrupt or alter a sense of self, how the brain constructs a sense of self, and the evidence that this subjective experience of selfhood is an illusion. http://www.newscientist.com/special/self

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On Borges, Particles and the Paradox of the Perceived | The Stone, New York Times

On Borges, Particles and the Paradox of the Perceived | The Stone, New York Times | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it
How can science, philosophy and a work of pure imagination meet to deepen our understanding of the physical world?

 

Referring to a character in a Jorge Luis Borges' short story, philosopher William Eggington comments, "What [Borges' character] Funes shows is that, at its most basic level, any observation requires a synthesis of impressions over time. Furthermore, the process by which the synthesis takes place, the media through which it is processed, and the entity doing the synthesizing are all essential aspects of the knowledge being produced. This is, in a nutshell, the first part of Kant’s 1781 opus magnum, “The Critique of Pure Reason.” ...Kant’s insight was that, in order for the knowledge we get from our senses at any given moment in time to mean anything, our mindsmust already be distinguishing it and combining it with the information we get in prior and subsequent moments in time. Thusthere is no such thing as a pure impression in time — no absolute, frozen moment in which we know the sun is rising now without being able to infer anything from it — because such a pure moment without a before or after would be nothing at all." 

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Science, philosophy, fiction -- and the Buddhist Pali Canon? I cannot read this without thinking of the Sabba sutta ("The All") and recent conversations at the Won Institute regarding the ineluctable influence of previous experience and concepts on present-moment interpretations of sensory input. My teenage enchantment with Borges anticipated my adult curiosities more explicitly than I realized. 

 

Sabba sutta: http://tinyurl.com/clep88n

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Татьяна Фокина's curator insight, April 30, 2013 12:03 AM

О сенсорной информации

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Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice Associated with Longer Telomeres in Women | Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice Associated with Longer Telomeres in Women | Brain, Behavior, and Immunity | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: Relatively short telomere length may serve as a marker of accelerated aging, and shorter telomeres have been linked to chronic stress. Specific lifestyle behaviors that can mitigate the effects of stress might be associated with longer telomere lengths. Previous research suggests a link between behaviors that focus on the well-being of others, such as volunteering and caregiving, and overall health and longevity. We examined relative telomere length in a group of individuals experienced in Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM), a practice derived from the Buddhist tradition which utilizes a focus on unselfish kindness and warmth towards all people, and control participants who had done no meditation. Blood was collected by venipuncture, and Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes. Quantitative real time PCR was used to measure relative telomere length (RTL) (Cawthon, 2002) in fifteen LKM practitioners and 22 control participants. There were no significant differences in age, gender, race, education, or exposure to trauma, but the control group had a higher mean body mass index (BMI) and lower rates of past depression. The LKM practitioners had longer RTL than controls at the trend level (p=.083); among women, the LKM practitioners had significantly longer RTL than controls, (p=.007), which remained significant even after controlling for BMI and past depression. Although limited by small sample size, these results offer the intriguing possibility that LKM practice, especially in women, might alter RTL, a biomarker associated with longevity.

 

Hoge, E. A. et al (in press). Loving-Kindness meditaiton practice associated with longer telomeres in women. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Advance online publication doi: 10.1016/j.bbi/2013.04.005

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Although the sample size is small and the reasons as yet unknown, the gender difference reported in this study is intriguing. I can't recall similar findings in studies of FA and OM practices. In the authors' words: "We could also speculate that LKM practice leads to greater psychological, and therefore physiological, changes in women because they are able to utilize it better due to inherently greater empathic abilities or a greater focus on others; this potential difference in empathic capacity is supported by neuroimaging data showing stronger neural activation in women in emotion-related areas across several empathy tasks (emotion recognition, perspective taking and affective responsiveness) (Derntl et al., 2010)." One of the skills of experienced meditation teachers is the determination of which practices best suit which individuals according to temperament, lifestyle, current mental/physical issues, etc. It's encouraging to see that science is starting to illuminate the mechanisms by which different practices affect individual practitioners differently. 

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Meditation boosts compassion - new research from Northeastern University

Meditation boosts compassion - new research from Northeastern University | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Med­i­ta­tion is asso­ci­ated with a slew of health ben­e­fits including improved mental health, better func­tional cog­ni­tion, and even increased gray matter in the brain. His­tor­i­cally, though, one of the main pur­poses of med­i­ta­tion has been to increase the practitioner’s com­pas­sion toward all sen­tient beings, according to psychology professor David DeSteno. 

 

Nonethe­less, the social impli­ca­tions of med­i­ta­tion have never been sci­en­tif­i­cally studied. “We know med­i­ta­tion improves a person’s own phys­ical and psy­cho­log­ical well-being,” said Paul Condon, a grad­uate stu­dent in DeSteno’s lab. “We wanted to know whether it actu­ally increases com­pas­sionate behavior.”

 

In a new study led by Condon, DeSteno’s team in the Social Emotion Group showed that even a brief period of med­i­ta­tion training is indeed enough to boost one’s com­pas­sion toward a suf­fering stranger more than five­fold. The results will soon be pub­lished in the journal Psy­cho­log­ical Sci­ence.."


Via Edwin Rutsch
Eileen Cardillo's insight:

This study seems of interest for two reasons: 1) it considers compassionate behavior in a more ecologically valid way than behavioral experiments to date, and 2) the increased probability of a compassionate response was observed in meditators who both did and did not have compassion explicitly integrated into their training. This latter effect indicates that attention training is sufficient to increase pro-social behavior. No special affective or ethical instruction was necessary to change participants' social norms; rather, the change fell naturally out of the attention practice.

 

Data of this sort suggests that explicit ethical training (sila) may not be necessary to elicit increased pro-social behavior, an important finding for those (like me) interested in teaching meditation in a secular fashion. My working hypothesis is that changes in ethical behavior and values are a predictable byproduct of the cultivation of attention and awareness, a lawful relationship that is highly probable even if not absolute. In western psychology we distinguish detached, cognitive capacities like attention from affective, value-laden ones like compassion or empathy. Perhaps, however, awareness is the real backbone of moral character, scaffolding the emergence of pro-social traits like compassion.  I look forward to reading the actual paper when it's out and, fingers crossed, seeing it replicated and extended. 

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The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better

The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Meditation yields a surprising number of health benefits, including stress reduction, improved attention, better memory, and even increased creativity and feelings of compassion. But how can something as simple as focusing on a single object produce such dramatic results? Here’s what the growing body of scientific evidence is telling us about meditation and how it can change the way our brains function."

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Non-technical, brief overview. Pros: no background in science or meditation necessary. Cons: selective treatment, simplifies the literature. Bottomline: Easy Saturday morning reading while you're sipping your coffee not yet motivated to sit today.

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The Mediating Effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion on Trait Anxiety | Mindfulness

The Mediating Effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion on Trait Anxiety | Mindfulness | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: Research has found meditation to be associated with improved mental health; however, less is known about how these positive outcomes develop. To better understand the operant effects of meditation on mental health, this study is set forth to examine the potential mediating effects of commonly measured constructs of mindfulness and self-compassion on trait anxiety, a personality trait prevalent in many psychiatric conditions. This longitudinal study uses a meditation treatment (n = 108) and comparative control (n = 94) designed to examine relational changes in mindfulness, self-compassion, and trait anxiety data collected in three waves: (a) baseline, (b) mid-program, and (c) post-program. Structural equation modeling (SEM) revealed significant increases in mindfulness and self-compassion scores among the treatment cohort and cross-lagged regression models that revealed significant reductions in trait anxiety were mediated by preceding increases in mindfulness. SEM model testing found that increases in mindfulness precipitate increases in self-compassion, but neither self-compassion nor anxiety mediated mindfulness. Whereas both self-compassion and mindfulness were associated with reductions in anxiety, the cultivation of mindfulness had the most robust mediating effect on reductions in trait anxiety. These finding reinforce previous studies that have suggested that increases in mindfulness skills may mediate the effects of meditation on mental health outcomes. Among the strengths of the current study are the longitudinal three waves of data, including mid-program data that enables cross-lagged regression. The cross-lagged models indicate the temporal ordering of changes and reveal mindfulness as the key mediating variable preceding substantive changes in self-compassion and trait anxiety.

 

Bergen-Cico, D. & Cheon, S. (in press). The Mediating effects of mindfulness and self-compassion on trait anxiety. Mindfulness. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-013-0205-y

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

New research from Won Institute faculty member, Rev. Sanghyeon Cheon! 

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Contemplation and Medicine in South Asia and Beyond | Contemplative Sciences Center, UVA

Contemplation and Medicine in South Asia and Beyond | Contemplative Sciences Center, UVA | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

An interdisciplinary conference hosted by the University of Virginia's new Contemplative Sciences Center will take place this Saturday, 6 April 2013, 9-5 PM in Charlottesvile, VA. The one-day meeting will feature speakers from UVa and beyond, and cover three themes: 1) Yoga and Ayurveda in Premodern South Asia, 2) Mindfulness, Compassion, and Ayurveda in Contemporary Clinical Care and Research, and 3) Healing Places: Contemplation and the Built Environment. 

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

UVA's Contemplative Science Center is an exciting new development in the field of contemplative studies, bringing together thinkers, practitioners, and scholars from a variety of disciplines. The center "has been established to foster dynamic partnerships of unusual depth and breadth towards exploring the transformative impact of contemplation in a variety of social sectors." Check out their webpage to learn more about their mission and plans both at UVA and beyond. 

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The Wear and Tear of Daily Stressors on Mental Health | Psychological Science

The Wear and Tear of Daily Stressors on Mental Health | Psychological Science | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: Researchers assert that affective responses to seemingly minor daily events have long-term implications for mental health, yet this phenomenon has rarely been investigated. In the current study, we examined how levels of daily negative affect and affective reactivity in response to daily stressors predicted general affective distress and self-reported anxiety and depressive disorders 10 years after they were first assessed. Across eight consecutive evenings, participants (N = 711; age = 25 to 74 years) reported their daily stressors and their daily negative affect. Increased levels of negative affect on nonstressor days were related to general affective distress and symptoms of an affective disorder 10 years later. Heightened affective reactivity to daily stressors predicted greater general affective distress and an increased likelihood of reporting an affective disorder. These findings suggest that the average levels of negative affect that people experience and how they respond to seemingly minor events in their daily lives have long-term implications for their mental health.

 

Charles, S.T. et al (in press). The wear and tear of daily stressors on mental health. Psychological Science. doi: 10.1177/0956797612462222

 

Photo credit: Gary Larson, Far Side

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

This article is nothing to do with meditation. And so much to do with it? Mindfulness programs are explicitly intended to help people manage and minimize their stress. Meditation practice more broadly construed, by contrast, does *not* have stress reduction as one of its goals - but it does seem to be one of its outcomes. Meditation does not necessarily reduce negative emotions; to the contrary, it seems to heighten one's sensitivity to emotional states, including painful ones. It does, however, reduce emotional reactivity as well as "stickiness" (the tendency of an emotional state to perseverate). If "all" your meditation practice seems to do is help you better manage your daily stressors, this paper suggests that may not be so inconsequential an achievement at all. 

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Neural correlates of the "good life": Eudaimonic well-being is associated with insular cortex volume | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Neural correlates of the "good life": Eudaimonic well-being is associated with insular cortex volume | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: 

Eudaimonic well-being reflects traits concerned with personal growth, self-acceptance, purpose in life, and autonomy (among others), and is a substantial predictor of life events, including health. While interest in the etiology of eduaimonic well-being has blossomed in recent years, little is known of the underlying neural substrates of this construct. To address this gap in our knowledge, here we examined whether regional gray matter volume was associated with eudaimonic well-being. Structural MR images from 70 young, healthy adults who also completed Ryff's 42-item measure of the six core facets of eudaimonia were analysed with voxel-based morphometry techniques. We found that eudaimonic well-being was positively associated with right insular cortex gray matter volume. This association was also reflected in three of the subscales of eudaimonia: personal growth, positive relations, and purpose in life. Positive relations also showed a significant association with left insual volume…These findings are the first to our knowledge linking eudaimonic well-being with regional brain structure. 

 

Epub ahead of print: 

http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/03/19/scan.nst032.full.pdf

 

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

As the authors note, long-term meditators, too, have increased gray matter density and thickness in the anterior insula. This is a brain area whose activity has also been shown to vary with mindfulness training, and interoceptive awareness. Explicitly linking subjective well-being, insula activity and/or volume, and meditation training in a single study seems a well-motivated next step for contemplative neuroscientists.

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Consciousness and the Invention of Morel | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Consciousness and the Invention of Morel | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: A scientific study of consciousness should take into consideration both objective and subjective measures of conscious experiences. To this date, very few studies have tried to integrate third-person data, or data about the neurophysiological correlates of conscious states, with first-person data, or data about subjective experience. Inspired by Morel's invention (Casares, 1940), a literary machine capable of reproducing sensory-dependent external reality, this article suggests that combination of virtual reality techniques and brain reading technologies, that is, decoding of conscious states by brain activity alone, can offer this integration. It is also proposed that the multimodal, simulating, and integrative capacities of the dreaming brain render it an “endogenous” Morel's machine, which can potentially be used in studying consciousness, but not always in a reliable way. Both the literary machine and dreaming could contribute to a better understanding of conscious states.

 

Perogamvros, L. (2013). Consciousness and the invention of Morel. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(61). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00061

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

One of the more ambitious goals of contemplative neuroscience is the meaningful integration of third-person observable data with first-person subjective data. However, research taking this approach remain scarce, both within studies of meditation and, as Perogamvros notes, consciousness studies more generally. Drawing inspiration outside the scientific literature, the author suggests a possible way forward in the empirical investigation of subjective experience. For contemplative scientists tackling the same methodological challenge, his speculations might be good food for thought.

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Persistence of Feelings and Sentience after Bilateral Damage of the Insula | Cerebral Cortex

Persistence of Feelings and Sentience after Bilateral Damage of the Insula | Cerebral Cortex | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

ABSTRACT: It has been convincingly established, over the past decade, that the human insular cortices are involved in processing both body feelings (such as pain) and feelings of emotion. Recently, however, an interpretation of this finding has emerged suggesting that the insular cortices are the necessary and sufficient platform for human feelings, in effect, the sole neural source of feeling experiences. In this study, we investigate this proposal in a patient whose insular cortices were destroyed bilaterally as a result of Herpes simplex encephalitis. The fact that all aspects of feeling were intact indicates that the proposal is problematic. The signals used to assemble the neural substrates of feelings hail from different sectors of the body and are conveyed by neural and humoral pathways to complex and topographically organized nuclei of the brain stem, prior to being conveyed again to cerebral cortices in the somatosensory, insular, and cingulate regions. We suggest that the neural substrate of feeling states is to be found first subcortically and then secondarily repeated at cortical level. The subcortical level would ensure basic feeling states while the cortical level would largely relate feeling states to cognitive processes such as decision-making and imagination.

 

Damasio, A., Damasio, H., & Tranel, D. (2013). Persistence of feelings and sentience after bilateral damage of the insula. Cerebral Cortex, 23(4), 833-846.

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

Considering the neural correlates of feelings, emotions, and arousal and how they relate to Buddhist concepts like vedana and citta-sankhara (and the absence of a notion like 'emotion')? This might be a good place to start. It's also a nice example of how neuropsychological data can inform our models (western or Buddhist). 

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April Michelle Dean Resnick's comment, March 11, 2013 1:09 PM
Fascinating! Thanks.
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Basic Meditation Instructions | Secular Buddhist Association

Basic Meditation Instructions | Secular Buddhist Association | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

 

 

We’ve created this page to help with some of the basics that should get you started, and build some foundational skills and tools that will help you continue once you do. Topics include: 

 

     What is meditation and why do we do it?

     What kind of meditation is right for me?

     Starting a meditation practice - what to do

     Sustaining a meditation practice - keep it going

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

A well-written, brief introduction to meditation - no hokey pokey nor overly technical language. i.e. If you're interested in the practice, not just the science, this is a good place to start.

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Free the Mind film screening at Rubin Museum of Art

Free the Mind film screening at Rubin Museum of Art | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Richard Davidson, one of the world's leading researchers of the human brain, sets out to discover if and how the brain might be physically altered using only the power of thought." Phie Ambo's documentary film opens on 3 May 2013 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York and includes a post-screening discussion with Dr. Davidson.

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