Contemplative Science
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Contemplative Science
the science of meditation and other contemplative practices
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BG 278: Secular Buddhism, interview with Ted Meissner

BG 278: Secular Buddhism, interview with Ted Meissner | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Episode Description: "Ted Meissner is the host of The Secular Buddhist podcast and the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. In this episode with host Vincent Horn, Ted shares examples of secular Buddhism, why he is skeptical but not cynical about religion, and he stresses what he thinks is the importance of right speech in the modern world." (part 1 of 2)

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Buddhist-Inspired Meditation Increases the Value of Calm | Emotion

Buddhist-Inspired Meditation Increases the Value of Calm | Emotion | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: Most studies of meditation have focused on “actual affect” (how people actually feel). We predict that meditation may even more significantly alter “ideal affect” (how people ideally want to feel). As predicted, meditators ideally wanted to feel calm more and excited less than nonmeditators, but the groups did not differ in their actual experience of calm or excited states.. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding how meditation alters affective life.

Eileen Cardillo's insight:

One implication, I've noticed, is how meditation upturns our conventional expectations about what it is to "fall in love." The dizzying but pleasurable high-arousal states that many report - and seek - in the initial stages of romantic relationships have not appealed to me for some time. The emergence of a loving affective state, for me, is characterized by serenity in another person's company, closer to the midline of Russell's arousal axis than the upper right quadrant. This steady, warm regard is accompanied by a sense of increased mental clarity, heightened awareness of the body, and strong present moment focus. A sense of peace more like sukkha than piti, even in the early stages of romantic affiliation - and not much different than states I experience during sitting practice. Extensive informal, first-person experiential research leads me to hypothesize this characterization of romantic love is less common among non-meditators. Data collection still in progress!

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YogiJoe1's curator insight, February 23, 2013 3:35 PM

The value of meditation is slowly becoming a topic of our cultural discourse.

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Individual and Societal Change from the Contemplative Perspective

Individual and Societal Change from the Contemplative Perspective | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Can't wait for the 2014 International Symposium on Contemplative Studies? Based in Europe? Here's a related Mind and Life Event: On October 10-13, 2013, Mind and Life Europe will be hosting the first European Symposium for Contemplative Studies: Individual and Societal Change from the Contemplative Perspective. This event will take place in Berlin, Germany.

 

More information will be available soon on our website (http://www.mindandlife.org/about/mind-life-europe/), or you can send us your email address for a timely announcement: europeansymposium@mindandlife.org

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A neural basis for benefits of meditation | Brown University News & Events

A neural basis for benefits of meditation | Brown University News & Events | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Why does training in mindfulness meditation help patients manage chronic pain and depression? In a newly published neurophysiological review, Brown University scientists propose that mindfulness practitioners gain enhanced control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms that help regulate how the brain processes and filters sensations, including pain, and memories such as depressive cognitions."

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Original article: Kerr, CE, Sacchet MD, Lazar SW, Moore CI, Jones SR. Mindfulness starts with the body: Somatosensory attention and cortical alpha modulation in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13 Feb 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012

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How Can Meditation Help You Control Your Mind?

How Can Meditation Help You Control Your Mind? | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Contemplative neuroscientist Richie Davidson reviews the evidence for individual and developmental differences in cognitive control, and the possibility to cultivate this attentional capacity. "This essay invites the view that we all can indeed learn to control our minds.  Humans are endowed with the capacity to learn to control their minds and such learning should be accompanied by a decrease in mind wandering and by corresponding changes in brain function in the default mode...The quality of awareness characterized by being fully present in the moment is a skill that can be learned." Readers are inivted to submit discussion comments and questions, which Dr. Davidson will respond to at the end of the week.

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New Blog Alert: Hallucinations and hysterias - The science of imagining things

New Blog Alert: Hallucinations and hysterias - The science of imagining things | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"This blog will cover lucid dreaming, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranormal and metaphysical experiences, as well as the placebo and nocebo effects, hypnosis and psychogenic illness. It is a wide range of sub-topics but they all involve the illusion of sensory perception in the absence of external stimulus or the physiological manifestations of mental perception that is shaped by suggestion. In other words, at work is a faulty or highly fluid interaction between an individual’s internal mental world and the external world." Looking forward to it!

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Challenging the Construct Validity of Mindfulness Assessment—a Cognitive Interview Study of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory

Challenging the Construct Validity of Mindfulness Assessment—a Cognitive Interview Study of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"The Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) is a widely used questionnaire of self-reported mindfulness. However, doubts have been expressed as to whether an adequate comprehension of the items of the FMI is independent of one's mindfulness experience (ME). The aim of the present study was to determine with qualitative methods whether and how ME influences the response to the FMI items...The results showed that (1) participants with ME fulfilled the item criteria for comprehension much more than participants without ME. (2) The coding scheme demonstrated greater comprehension difficulties in the sample without ME. Differences in judgment processes between groups could not be found. (3) Qualitative analysis revealed comprehension problem patterns especially for eight items for the comparison group. It is concluded that a modification of the wording of several FMI items is necessary and that there is insufficient construct validity to use the current FMI in mindfulness-naïve samples. This may also be true for other scales tapping into the assessment of the awareness component of mindfulness, and it is recommended to also check their construct validity." Even better, let's replace self-reports with experimental measures of mindfulness.

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A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation | Brain, Behavior, & Immunity

A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation | Brain, Behavior, & Immunity | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"We designed the present study to rigorously compare an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in ability to reduce psychological stress and experimentally-induced inflammation. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to induce psychological stress and inflammation was produced using topical application of capsaicin cream to forearm skin... Results show those randomized to MBSR and HEP training had comparable post-training stress-evoked cortisol responses, as well as equivalent reductions in self-reported psychological distress and physical symptoms. However, MBSR training resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to HEP, despite equivalent levels of stress hormones. These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions. Moreover, mindfulness practice, in particular, may be more efficacious in symptom relief than the well-being promoting activities cultivated in the HEP program."

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Meditation and the startle response: a case study | Emotion

Meditation and the startle response: a case study | Emotion | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Goodness, how did I miss this? The suppressed startle response of experienced meditator and guinea pig par excellence, Matthieu Ricard, has finally made the move from anecdotal lore to peer-reviewed documentation. This long-coming paper compares the influence of focused attention and open presence meditation, verses two non-meditative states, on the startle response in a Buddhist monk with over four decades of training. Relative to a control population and his own non-meditative states, M. Ricard had reduced physiological and facial markers of this automatic response during meditation. Further, this attenuation was greater during open presence than focused attention practice. This finding is an impressive demonstration of how skillful, top-down control of attention has the power to modulate a phenomena as fast-acting and stimulus-driven as a universal, primitive defensive response.

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On Human Compassion: Encountering The Dalai Lama's Scientific Mind | NPR

On Human Compassion: Encountering The Dalai Lama's Scientific Mind | NPR | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

At my alma mater! In a speech at the College of William and Mary, the Dalai Lama described the unique nature of human compassion versus that of other animals. What matters as much as his conclusions, says commentator Barbara J.King, is his endorsement of questioning, investigation, and experimentation in all realms of life.

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Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed in large-scale Swedish study

Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed in large-scale Swedish study | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet have provided compelling evidence confirming the link between creativity and mental illness. The large-scale Swedish registry study replicated a previous finding that biopolar disorder - but not other psychopathologies - is more common in artistic and scientific professions (dancers, researchers, photographers, and authors), and further indicated that authors were specifically more prevalent among those with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Creative professions were also more common in family members of patients with certain psychiatric disorders. Including data from most of the Sweden's population (!), this is considered the most comprehensive study to date. It's not a study of contemplation at all (sorry, folks) - but as someone curious about the similarities between certain mental states cultivated by traditional contemplative practices, the flow states cultivated in indiosyncratic ways by creative professionals, and the occasional psychotic experiences during intensive meditation, this line of research fascinates me.

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The Compassionate Brain: Free online video series starts tonight

The Compassionate Brain: Free online video series starts tonight | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Dr. Rick Hanson presents a free seven-part video series—The Compassionate Brain—that explores effective ways to change your brain and heart and life. Each week Dr. Hanson will be joined by a world-class scholar/teacher, including Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dacher Keltner, Kelly McGonigal, Kristin Neff, and Jean Houston. They’ll discuss different ways to use the power of neuroplasticity—how the mind can change the brain to transform the mind—to open the heart, build courage, find compassion, forgive oneself and others, and heal the world." I feel a bit wary whenever I hear exhortations like "practical neuroscience for transformation", as if I can almost hear a chorus of drunk-on-mindfulness, exuberant exclamation points ringing in the air afterward. Nonetheless, I do find the evidence for neuroplasticity robust and compelling, and the cultivation of affective states like compassion extremely valuable. I'll be curious to see where these conversations fall along the continuum spanning ectstatic optimism and evidence-based pragmatism. The series begins tonight, Monday 8 October 2012, 8-9 PM (eastern time).

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Pain Attenuation through Mindfulness is Associated with Decreased Cognitive Control and Increased Sensory Processing in the Brain | Cerebral Cortex

Pain Attenuation through Mindfulness is Associated with Decreased Cognitive Control and Increased Sensory Processing in the Brain | Cerebral Cortex | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Important new fMRI study from MGH researchers: "Here, we investigate the underlying brain mechanisms by which the state of mindfulness reduces pain. Mindfulness practitioners and controls received unpleasant electric stimuli in the functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner during a mindfulness and a control condition. Mindfulness practitioners, but not controls, were able to reduce pain unpleasantness by 22% and anticipatory anxiety by 29% during a mindful state. In the brain, this reduction was associated with decreased activation in the lateral prefrontal cortex and increased activation in the right posterior insula during stimulation and increased rostral anterior cingulate cortex activation during the anticipation of pain. These findings reveal a unique mechanism of pain modulation, comprising increased sensory processing and decreased cognitive control, and are in sharp contrast to established pain modulation mechanisms."

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Mindfulness and meditation training could ease PTSD symptoms, researchers say

Mindfulness and meditation training could ease PTSD symptoms, researchers say | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Researchers are looking into mindful meditation to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder...With its emphasis on cultivating tranquillity, meditation might seem like an odd fit for the military. But the researchers say that a particular type, known as mindfulness, may prove to be an important therapeutic tool to help reduce stress and increase focus." The article reviews the work of Elizabeth Stanley and Amishi Jha on mindfulness training pre-deployment, as well as in an elaborate combat simulation study involving 320 marines at Camp Pendelton. I have not yet been able to track down a publication on the latter, but will post if/when I do.

 

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New Beginner's Meditation Course at the Won Institute (Glenside, PA)

New Beginner's Meditation Course at the Won Institute (Glenside, PA) | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

This engaging 8-week course will provide a foundation in meditation and mindfulness for beginners and for those who would like to develop a meditation practice. The program will cover some of the underlying principles of meditation and will also explore the mind-body connection to stress and stress reduction using techniques and exercises learned during the course.

 

About the Instructor, Maria Fanelli: Maria holds a master's degree in Applied Meditation Studies from The Won Institute and is currently a meditation/mindfulness instructor for The Penn Program for Mindfulness. In addition, she completed the professional mindfulness teacher training programs through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at Jefferson's Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and has attended several week-long retreat trainings in mindfulness and meditation.

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Announcing the 2014 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies

Announcing the 2014 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

The International Symposium for Contemplative Studies brings together leading academics and other interested attendees for presentation, discussion, and collaborative networking in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, clinical science, philosophy, humanities, and education as they relate to investigations of contemplative practice. It will take place October 30-November 2, 2014 at the Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. This gathering is convened by the Mind & Life Institute and will be the second biennial symposium. The interdisciplinary meeting will examine new ideas in overlapping fields of contemplative study with the goal of advancing our understanding of the human mind, and how mental training through contemplative practices can lead to reduced suffering, enhanced health and cognitive- emotional functioning, greater happiness, and increased social harmony. Major speakers will include His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, along with leading scientists, educators, philosophers, and contemplatives.

Save the Date: This exciting event will take place from October 30-November 2, 2014 at the Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. We will be posting more information in the coming months as we finalize our speakers, sponsors, and special guests. Organization Website: www.mindandlife.org

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The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain | J Pain

The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain | J Pain | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Abstract: "This study investigated the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on ratings of painful electrical stimulation. In Experiment 1, we used a 3-day (20 min/d) mindfulness meditation intervention and measured pain ratings before and after the intervention. Participants' numerical ratings of pain to "low" and "high" electrical stimulation significantly decreased after meditation training. Pain sensitivity, measured by change in stimulus intensity thresholds, also decreased after training. We investigated, in Experiment 2, how well relaxation and a math distraction task attenuated experimental pain. Math distraction but not relaxation reduced high pain ratings. There was no reduction in pain sensitivity in these participants. In Experiment 3, we directly compared the effects of meditation with math distraction and relaxation conditions. Our findings indicated significant effects of both meditation and math distraction. Consistent with what was observed in Experiment 1, these participants also demonstrated a decrease in pain sensitivity after meditation training. Changes in the mindfulness and anxiety assessments suggest that meditation's analgesic effects are related to reduced anxiety and the enhanced ability to focus on the present moment. PERSPECTIVE: Our findings indicate that a brief 3-day mindfulness meditation intervention was effective at reducing pain ratings and anxiety scores when compared with baseline testing and other cognitive manipulations. The brief meditation training was also effective at increasing mindfulness skills."

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Neuroscience and Buddhist Meditation

Neuroscience and Buddhist Meditation | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Justin Whitaker recounts in this blog post some of Richard Gombrich's reflections on the neural underpinnings of the jhanas, and solicits reader feedback on the phenomenological differences between them. 

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The emergence of contemplative neuroscience | Mindful

The emergence of contemplative neuroscience | Mindful | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

This October, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., spoke at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. Mindful.org posts the video (90 min) here - watch to hear Davidson speak about the early days of contemplative neuroscience, and how our understanding of the neural mechanisms and effects of meditation has evolved since then. He also discusses conceptual and methodological issues in the study of meditation, and perhaps most progressive - how to practice both science and dharma (Humility in science, anyone?). Explicit recommendations include: time for daily practice in the lab, time for extended retreats as part of graduate training, and collaborative conversations with contemplative scholars. 

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S-ART: a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness | Frontiers in Neuroscience

S-ART: a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness | Frontiers in Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Ambitious, new model of mindfulness: "Here, we provide an integrative theoretical framework and systems-based neurobiological model that explains the mechanisms by which mindfulness reduces biases related to self-processing and creates a sustainable healthy mind. Mindfulness is described through systematic mental training that develops meta-awareness (self-awareness), an ability to effectively modulate one's behavior (self-regulation), and a positive relationship between self and other that transcends self-focused needs and increases prosocial characteristics (self-transcendence). This framework of self-awareness, -regulation, and -transcendence (S-ART) illustrates a method for becoming aware of the conditions that cause (and remove) distortions or biases."

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The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis | Psychological Bulletin

The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis | Psychological Bulletin | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Dense but well worth it: "In this meta-analysis, we give a comprehensive overview of the effects of meditation on psychological variables that can be extracted from empirical studies, concentrating on the effects of meditation on nonclinical groups of adult meditators. Mostly because of methodological problems, almost ¾ of an initially identified 595 studies had to be excluded. Most studies appear to have been conducted without sufficient theoretical background. To put the results into perspective, we briefly summarize the major theoretical approaches from both East and West. The 163 studies that allowed the calculation of effect sizes exhibited medium average effects (r = .28 for all studies and r = .27 for the n = 125 studies from reviewed journals), which cannot be explained by mere relaxation or cognitive restructuring effects. In general, results were strongest (medium to large) for changes in emotionality and relationship issues, less strong (about medium) for measures of attention, and weakest (small to medium) for more cognitive measures. However, specific findings varied across different approaches to meditation...We conclude that to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of why and how meditation works, emphasis should be placed on the development of more precise theories and measurement devices."

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Examining Subjective Experience: Advances in Neurophenomenology

Examining Subjective Experience: Advances in Neurophenomenology | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Call for papers! The journal Frontiers in Human Neurosciences is seeking submissions for a special issue on the neural correlates of subjective states, edited by neuroscientist Wendy Hasenkamp and philosopher Evan Thompson. "Neurophenomenology is an approach that seeks to integrate valid first-person subjective information with third-person objective measures to gain a more complete understanding of the human mind." Both primary research reports and theoretical or methodological papers are welcome. Abstract submission deadline: 12 December 2012 (Full article deadline: 17 April 2013).

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Mind and Life XXV: Contemplative Practice and Health: Laboratory Findings and Real World Challenges

Mind and Life XXV: Contemplative Practice and Health: Laboratory Findings and Real World Challenges | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Mind and Life presents is hosting a workshop on contemplative practices and health, featuring Matthieu Ricard, Richie Davidson, and H.H. the Dalai Lama. The workshop takes place at The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, on October 20, 2012, beginning at 9:00 a.m. (EST). Follow the link to watch via live webcast.

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Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"In this study, we investigated how eight weeks of training in meditation affects amygdala responses to emotional stimuli in subjects when in a non-meditative state. Healthy adults with no prior meditation experience took part in eight weeks of either Mindful Attention Training, Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT; a program based on Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation practices), or an active control intervention. Before and after the intervention, participants underwent an fMRI experiment during which they were presented images with positive, negative, and neutral emotional valences from the IAPS database while remaining in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Using a region-of-interest analysis, we found a longitudinal decrease in right amygdala activation in the Mindful Attention group in response to positive images, and in response to images of all valences overall. In the CBCT group, we found a trend increase in right amygdala response to negative images, which was significantly correlated with a decrease in depression score. No effects or trends were observed in the control group. This finding suggests that the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states. This is consistent with the hypothesis that meditation training may induce learning that is not stimulus- or task-specific, but process-specific, and thereby may result in enduring changes in mental function."

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Call for participants: mindfulness meditation study

Call for participants: mindfulness meditation study | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the Adler School of Professional Pscyhology are exploring the relationship between mindfulness meditation practice and personal orientation. They are seeking both meditation practitioners and non meditation practitioners to complete an online survey.

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