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Contemplative Science
the science of meditation and other contemplative practices
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Yoga reduces stress; now it's known why

Yoga reduces stress; now it's known why | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at UCLA have shown that practicing a form of yogic meditation for just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system's inflammation response. Results indicated reduced gene expression related to inflammation in participants that practiced Kirtan Kriya chanting compared to those that spent the same amount of time per day listening to instrumental music in a quiet place with their eyes closed.

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Mind and Life Receives $3 Million to fund new strategic vision

Mind and Life Receives $3 Million to fund new strategic vision | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"The Mind & Life Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by the Dalai Lama, neuroscientist Francisco Vareal, and entrepreneur Adam Engle in 1987, has received a grant of $3,000,000 in support of the organization's new vision. New initiatives to be funded by the grant include a project to develop an integrated approach to addiction treatment, a research program to study positive qualities such as compassion and ethical conduct, and the further development of its global network of scholars, researchers and contemplative practitioners." Considering the current tough funding climate for the sciences, this is especially promising news!

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Global and regional alterations of hippocampal anatomy in long-term meditation practitioners | Human Brain Mapping

Global and regional alterations of hippocampal anatomy in long-term meditation practitioners | Human Brain Mapping | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Luders & colleagues report an important new study on the anatomical changes observed in the brains of long-time meditation practitioners. Differences in volume and morphology of the hippocampus were observed for 30 expert meditators compared to 30 controls. The authors conclude, "Larger hippocampal dimensions in long-term meditators may constitute part of the underlying neurological substrate for cognitive skills, mental capacities, and/or personal traits associated with the practice of meditation. Alternatively, given that meditation positively affects autonomic regulation and immune activity, altered hippocampal dimensions may be one result of meditation-induced stress reduction."

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The Science of Compassion | KALW 91.7 San Francisco Public Radio

The Science of Compassion | KALW 91.7 San Francisco Public Radio | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

What makes us want to be good? San Francisco Public Radio presents an engaging show on the neuroscience of compassion, the innovative and interdisciplinary work being done at CCARE, the Center for Compassion And Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, and the translation of Buddhist ideas about compassion into techniques that fit in secular and multi-faith American culture.

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Call for submissions: 2013 International Science Conference on Mindfulness

Call for submissions: 2013 International Science Conference on Mindfulness | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Call for submissions to the 11th annual international scientific conference, "Investigating and Integrating Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society," April 17-21, 2013, in Norwood, MA.

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On Science And Religion: A Buddhist Monk's Perspective

On Science And Religion: A Buddhist Monk's Perspective | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"As an atheist, I do not believe in god. Neither does Dr. Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who earned his PhD in cellular genetics and currently lives in the Himalayan region, where he leads humanitarian efforts in India, Nepal, and Tibet." Cara Santa Maria interviews Dr. Ricard at the 2012 World Science Festival in New York City to talk about science and religion. Follow the link for the video or full transcript of the conversation.

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The Science of Compassion | New York Times

The Science of Compassion | New York Times | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, my colleagues and I conducted experiments that answered yes to both questions." David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, reports results from some clever studies.

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Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison report a comparative study of the benefits of meditation and exercise on the incidence, severity, and duration of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) like the cold or flu. Although both practices were associated with reduced ARIs compared to a control group, meditation futher reduced the severity and duration of the reported illnesses. The study appears in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

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Stanford studies monks' meditation, compassion

Stanford studies monks' meditation, compassion | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Stanford neuroeconomist Brian Knutson is an expert in the pleasure center of the brain that works in tandem with our financial decisions - the biology behind why we bypass the kitchen coffeemaker to buy the $4 Starbucks coffee every day.. Only now he wants to know if the same area of the brain can light up for altruistic reasons. Can extending compassion to another person look the same in the brain as anticipating something good for oneself? And who better to test than Tibetan monks, who have spent their lives pursuing a state of selfless nonattachment?" Brief overview of the neuroscience of compassion follows.

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Real-time fMRI and its application to neurofeedback | NeuroImage

Real-time fMRI and its application to neurofeedback | NeuroImage | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"[Real-time fMRI] neurofeedback has been used to train self-regulation of the local [blood oxygen level dependent] response in various different brain areas and to study consequential behavioral effects. Behavioral effects such as modulation of pain, reaction time, linguistic or emotional processing have been shown in healthy and/or patient populations. RtfMRI neurofeedback presents a new paradigm for studying the relation between brain behavior and physiology." It is also a very promising tool for meditation training, and for understanding the relationship between the subjective experience of meditation and its neural underpinning.

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Happiness is a glass half empty (and laughing about it) | The Guardian

Happiness is a glass half empty (and laughing about it) | The Guardian | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"It's our relentless effort to feel happy, or to achieve certain goals, that is precisely what makes us miserable and sabotages our plans. And ..it is our constant quest to eliminate or to ignore the negative - insecurity, uncertainty, failure, sadness - that causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy in the first place." So proposes Oliver Burkeman in his book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking. Follow the link for an extended extract.

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Eileen Cardillo's comment, July 13, 2012 7:56 AM
Likewise! I added the "And laughing about it" because that's the best way I see that one can bear such a clear-eyed view. Just got the book, curious how likeminded I'll find it.
April Michelle Dean Resnick's comment, July 13, 2012 8:30 AM
Yep, the idea seems to suit my personality. The "stay positive" idea always irritates me greatly! How did you get the book? On Amazon it is "pre-order."
Eileen Cardillo's comment, July 13, 2012 9:09 AM
We can be smiling curmudgeons together!
I think I ordered it directly off the Guardian webpage?
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Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving | Consciousness and Cognition

Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving | Consciousness and Cognition | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Insight problem sovling is hindered by automated verbal-conceptual processes. Because mindfulness meditation training aims at "nonconceptual awareness" which involves a reduced influence of verbal-conceptual processes on the interpretation of ongoing experience, mindfulness may facilitate insight problem solving. This hypothesis was examined across two studies. Participants in both studies completed a measure of trait mindfulness and a series of insight and noninsight problems.. These findings are the first to document a direct relationship between mindfulness and creativity."

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The Attention System of the Human Brain: 20 Years After | Annual Review of Neuroscience

The Attention System of the Human Brain: 20 Years After | Annual Review of Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Review article by Petersen & Posner updates framework presented in 1990,  including adding meditation as means of effectively training attention. From abstract: "The framework presented in the original article has helped to integrate behavioral, systems, cellular, and molecular approaches to common problems in attention research...Research on orienting and executive functions has supported the addition of new networks of brain regions. Developmental studies have shown important changes in control systems between infancy and childhood. In some cases, evidence has supported the role of specific genetic variations, often in conjunction with experience, that account for some of the individual differences in the efficiency of attentional networks."

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A Single Brain Structure May Give Winners That Extra Physical Edge| Scientific American

A Single Brain Structure May Give Winners That Extra Physical Edge| Scientific American | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"Where the body meets the brain" - the insular cortex - is generally associated with interoception, or awareness of your body's internal state. This engaging article reviews the evidence for such a role, and some clever experiments investigating insula activity in exceptional athletes and navy seals. "Taken together, the studies indicate that men and women who have extreme physical abilities show greater insula activation when anticipating a change to their internal feelings, whether emotional or physical" and insula engagement correlates with the ability to perform well under stress. Whatsmore, activity in this brain area is significantly altered by mindfulness training - another kind of athleticism? 

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Power of the mind | Oxford Today

Power of the mind | Oxford Today | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

The head of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, visited Oxford to discuss mindfulness and meditation with Prof. Mark Williams, the founding director of the Oxford Mindfulness Center in the Department of Psychiatry.

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The attentional requirements of consciousness | Trends in Cognitive Science

The attentional requirements of consciousness | Trends in Cognitive Science | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Compelling review of the relationship between attention and awareness, at both behavioral and neural levels. Cohen and colleagues argue against the view that awareness can exist in the absence in the attention. Instead, they propose that attention is a necessary - but not sufficient - condition for a stimulus to reach conscious awareness. The authors draw upon evidence from a battery of experimental tasks from the current attention literature to support their model. Seems like an optimal set of tests and hypotheses for considering the influence of meditation experience on the scope and sensitivity of attention.

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Mindfulness and Working Memory | Mindful.Org

Mindfulness and Working Memory | Mindful.Org | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

David Whitehorn explains a new model of working memory presented at the 2012 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies: "Dr. John Teasdale proposes that mindfulness practice changes the fundamental way we process information..The idea that mindfulness practice can help us shift the way we examine and come to know the world is fundamental in all contemplative traditions as is the identification of two forms of "knowing," one involving concepts and comparisons, the other being non-conceptual and holistic. Teasdale has connected these ideas with concepts from cognitive science to create a model that can help generate research questions"

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Conversation with Alan Wallace on "The Mystical Positivist" Radio Show | Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

Conversation with Alan Wallace on "The Mystical Positivist" Radio Show | Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., is a dynamic lecturer, progressive scholar, and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, who continually seeks innovative ways to integrate Buddhist contemplative practices with Western science to advance the study of the mind. Dr. Wallace, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970, has taught Buddhist theory and meditation worldwide since 1976. Having devoted fourteen years to training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of science at Amherst College and a doctorate in religious studies at Stanford." After teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at UC-Santa Barbara, Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and continues to teach and write widely on Buddhism, meditation, and science.

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Self-Compassion Fosters Mental Health | Scientific American

Self-Compassion Fosters Mental Health | Scientific American | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"People who are self-compassionate avoid harsh critiques or negative generalizations of themselves, and they see their troubles as part of the human condition. Research is showing that this gentle, nonjudgmental approach helps individuals bounce back even after major crises..mounting research shows that you can cultivate your self-compassion through meditation" or acting compassionately towards others.

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BUDDHA’S BRAIN: Interview with Dr. Rick Hanson on the science and spirituality of the brain

BUDDHA’S BRAIN: Interview with Dr. Rick Hanson on the science and spirituality of the brain | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Interview with Dr. Rick Hanson, neuroscientist and author of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom. Not the most incisive or eloquent excerpt from the interview but my favorite: Regarding tailoring meditation practices to individual differences in temperament and neurophysiology, Hanson comments, "I think most contemplative practices have been created by turtles for turtles in turtle pants to make a better turtle. But the problem is there aren’t just turtles out there, there are a lot of jackrabbits out there." And we like our jackrabbit pants.

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Evidence supports health benefits of 'mindfulness-based practices'

Evidence supports health benefits of 'mindfulness-based practices' | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Specific types of "mindfulness practices" including Zen meditation have demonstrated benefits for patients with certain physical and mental health problems, according to a new report. A review of existing research on three mindfulness-based practices (Zen meditation, MBSR, and MBCT) indicates that these practices are effective in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and pain. MBSR and MBCT both countered depression and anxiety, and MBSR was also found to mitigate stress from various causes. In addition, MBSR and Zen meditation were both found to be helpful for pain management.

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The Difficulty of Defining Mindfulness: Current Thought & Critical Issues

The Difficulty of Defining Mindfulness: Current Thought & Critical Issues | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

"If one considers the increasing evidence about the clinical benefits and the psychological and neurobiological correlates of [Mindfulness-Based Interventions], it is surprising that significantly lower effort has been directed towards the achievement of a consensus about an unequivocal definition of mindfulness within modern Western psychology (Malinowski 2008). Indeed, significant differences exist among different definitions of mindfulness (Grossman 2008). As a consequence, the extent to which the large variety of interventions currently subsumed under the rubric of MBIs actually represent a unique rather than an heterogeneous groups of practices linked by the same label “mindfulness” (Chiesa and Malinowski 2011) is unclear." Online advance print, Chieso, A. Mindfulness, 29 June 2012

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Training the brain: Fact and fad in cognitive and behavioral remediation | Brain & Cognition

Training the brain: Fact and fad in cognitive and behavioral remediation | Brain & Cognition | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Neuroplasticity and the promise of enhancing, sculpting, or rehabilitating brain function has widespread appeal and increasing commercial value. Rabipour and Raz review the evidence in support of various products and practices purported to train the brain - e.g. computer programs, neurofeedback, musical training, bilingualism, exercise, parenting - and meditation. The authors also evaluate the existing evidence for efficacy in various populations, and make recommendations for their implementation (or not) as stand-alone treatments or in conjuction with medication and other interventions.

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How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain | New York Times

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain | New York Times | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of Illinois compared the effects of enriched and no-frills environments with and without running wheels on the cognitive skills and brain structure of lab rats. "Only one thing mattered," says lead researcher and psychologist Justin S. Rhodes, "and that's whether they had a running wheel." An important avenue for future research will be to compare the cognitive and physiological benefits of meditation with different types of exercise. What does each buy you that the other doesn't? In what ways are the body-awareness and attentional clarity of physical exertion (un)like  some meditative states? Is likening meditation practice to strengthening an attentional "muscle" just a handy analogy, or is mental training fundamentally similar to physical fitness training?

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The Neural Basis of Empathy | Annual Review of Neuroscience

The Neural Basis of Empathy | Annual Review of Neuroscience | Contemplative Science | Scoop.it

Bernhardt and Singer review the neural networks underlying empathy, as well as the other brain regions that may also be recruited depending on the particular context driving the empathic response. The authors also discuss factors that modulate empathy, including preliminary fMRI evidence that compassion meditation and training alter activity in key areas of the empathy network.

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