Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain

November 13, 2012
A new study has found that participating in an 8-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. In their report in the November issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston University (BU), and several other research centers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.

"The two different types of meditation training our study participants completed yielded some differences in the response of the amygdala - a part of the brain known for decades to be important for emotion - to images with emotional content," says Gaëlle Desbordes, PhD, a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and at the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, corresponding author of the report. "This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state."

Several previous studies have supported the hypothesis that meditation training improves practitioners' emotional regulation. While neuroimaging studies have found that meditation training appeared to decrease activation of the amygdala - a structure at the base of the brain that is known to have a role in processing memory and emotion - those changes were only observed while study participants were meditating. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that meditation training could also produce a generalized reduction in amygdala response to emotional stimuli, measurable by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Participants had enrolled in a larger investigation into the effects of two forms of meditation, based at Emory University in Atlanta. Healthy adults with no experience meditating participated in 8-week courses in either mindful attention meditation - the most commonly studied form that focuses on developing attention and awareness of breathing, thoughts and emotions - and compassion meditation, a less-studied form that includes methods designed to develop loving kindness and compassion for oneself and for others. A control group participated in an 8-week health education course.

Within three weeks before beginning and three weeks after completing the training, 12 participants from each group traveled to Boston for fMRI brain imaging at the Martinos Center's state-of-the-art imaging facilities. Brain scans were performed as the volunteers viewed a series of 216 different images - 108 per session - of people in situations with either positive, negative or neutral emotional content. Meditation was not mentioned in pre-imaging instructions to participants, and investigators confirmed afterwards that the volunteers had not meditated while in the scanner. Participants also completed assessments of symptoms of depression and anxiety before and after the training programs.

In the mindful attention group, the after-training brain scans showed a decrease in activation in the right amygdala in response to all images, supporting the hypothesis that meditation can improve emotional stability and response to stress. In the compassion meditation group, right amygdala activity also decreased in response to positive or neutral images. But among those who reported practicing compassion meditation most frequently outside of the training sessions, right amygdala activity tended to increase in response to negative images - all of which depicted some form of human suffering. No significant changes were seen in the control group or in the left amygdala of any study participants.

"We think these two forms of meditation cultivate different aspects of mind," Desbordes explains. "Since compassion meditation is designed to enhance compassionate feelings, it makes sense that it could increase amygdala response to seeing people suffer. Increased amygdala activation was also correlated with decreased depression scores in the compassion meditation group, which suggests that having more compassion towards others may also be beneficial for oneself. Overall, these results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that meditation may result in enduring, beneficial changes in brain function, especially in the area of emotional processing."

Eric Schwartz, PhD, of the BU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, is senior author of the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience report. Additional co-authors are Lobsang T. Negi, PhD, and Thaddeus Pace, PhD, Emory University; Alan Wallace, PhD, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies; and Charles Raison, MD, University of Arizona College of Medicine. The study was supported by grants from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, including an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to Boston University.

Massachusetts General Hospital


Related Meditation Current Events and Meditation News Articles


Meditation as object of medical research
Mindfulness meditation produces personal experiences that are not readily interpretable by scientists who want to study its psychiatric benefits in the brain.

Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways
Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research from Oregon State University indicates.

Study: Stress impacts ability to get pregnant
Having difficulty getting pregnant can be an incredibly stressful experience for any couple. Now, for the first time, researchers have data that suggests preconception stress might play a role in infertility.

Yoga regulates stress hormones and improves quality of life for women with breast cancer undergoing
For women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy, yoga offers unique benefits beyond fighting fatigue, according to research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Mindfulness meditation may improve decision making
One 15-minute focused-breathing meditation may help people make smarter choices, according to new research from researchers at INSEAD and The Wharton School. The findings are published in the February issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Transcendental Meditation reduces teacher stress and burnout, new research shows
A new study published in The Permanente Journal (Vol. 18, No.1) on health showed the introduction of the Transcendental Meditation® technique substantially decreased teacher stress and burnout.

Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation
With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.

Stress reduction through meditation may aid in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease
It's well known that the brains of meditators change, but it's not entirely clear what those changes mean or how the changes might benefit the meditator.

Research reveals roles for exercise and diet in aging, depression
New studies released today underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of aging, and learning.

Medical students taught meditation techniques to prevent burnout and improve care
Doctors commonly tell patients that stress can be harmful to their health. Yet when it comes to reducing their own stress levels, physicians don't always heed their own advice.
More Meditation Current Events and Meditation News Articles

An Easy Guide to Meditation

An Easy Guide to Meditation
by CSA Press


Techniques and routines for all levels of practice and holistic lifestyle guidelines. Some practical benefits of regular superconscious meditation practice: stress is reduced, the body's immune system is strengthened, thinking becomes well-ordered and rational, intellectual and intuitive powers improve, biologic aging processes are slowed, appreciation for living is enhanced, spiritual growth progresses naturally.

Buddha in Blue Jeans: An Extremely Short Simple Zen Guide to Sitting Quietly

Buddha in Blue Jeans: An Extremely Short Simple Zen Guide to Sitting Quietly
by Tai Sheridan (Author)


Poet-philosopher and Zen Priest Tai Sheridan's 'Buddha in Blue Jeans' is an extremely short, simple and straight forward universal guide to the practice of sitting quietly and being yourself, which is the same as being Buddha. Sitting quietly can teach many ways to accept life, meet pain, age gracefully, and die without regret. The book encourages sitting quietly every day. Topics include: Sit Quietly; Care For Your Body; Accept Your Feelings; Give Thoughts Room; Pain is Natural; Be Who You Are; Live Each Moment Well; Love Indiscriminately; Listen to Others; Be Surprised; Wonder; Live gratefully; Do No Harm; Benefit life; A Wish for The World. The book is for people of any faith, religion, race, nationality, gender, relationship status, capacity, or meditation background

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Marcus Aurelius (Author)


Stirring reflections on the human condition from a warrior and emperor provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind and personality of a highly principled Roman of the 2nd century. Recognizing that suffering is at the core of life, he counsels stoic detachment in the face of inevitable pain, loss and death.

Meditations

Meditations
by Marcus Aurelius (Author)


Meditations a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161 180 CE, setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. It is possible that large portions of the work were written at Sirmium, where he spent much time planning military campaigns from 170 to 180. Some of it was written while he was positioned at Aquincum on campaign in Pannonia, because internal notes tell us that the second book was written when he was campaigning against the Quadi on the river Granova (modern-day Hron) and the third book was written at Carnuntum. It is not clear that he ever intended the writings to be published, so the title Meditations is but one of several commonly...

8 Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind. Change Your Life.

8 Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind. Change Your Life.
by Victor Davich (Author)


In recent years, mainstream Americans have begun to come around to meditation in a big way-and scientific studies are suggesting that the physical and mental benefits are solid and real. But to many, it remains something mystical and inaccessible...and spiritually-oriented tomes on the market don't do much to make it easier.

As interest in meditation continues to grow, this book offers a simple, no-nonsense program to help beginners experience reduced stress and increased focus in only eight minutes a day. Designed by meditation expert and bestselling author Victor Davich, this program teaches the basic principles of meditation while clearing up the misconceptions and myths that too often get in the way.

Quiet Mind: A Beginner's Guide to Meditation

Quiet Mind: A Beginner's Guide to Meditation
by Sharon Salzberg (Author), Sakyong Mipham (Author), Tulku Thondup (Author), Larry Rosenberg (Author), Susan Piver (Editor)


This unique book-and-audio program brings together some of the country's most beloved meditation teachers. Each contributor presents a short written teaching along with an audio recording of a guided practice. Quiet Mind features:

   • Sakyong Mipham on shamatha, the practice of tranquillity
   • Larry Rosenberg on vipassana, the practice of clear seeing
   • Edward Espe Brown on zazen, the practice of freedom
   • Sharon Salzberg on metta, the practice of lovingkindness

   • Judith Lief on tonglen, the practice of transformation
   • Tulku Thondup on healing the body and mind through meditation
   • Yoga teacher Richard Faulds on the link between yoga and meditation



Includes a 78-minute...

Meditation and Mindfulness Training: Practical Mindfulness Exercises and Mindful Meditations (The Meditation for Life Series) (Volume 3)

Meditation and Mindfulness Training: Practical Mindfulness Exercises and Mindful Meditations (The Meditation for Life Series) (Volume 3)
by Beth Banning (Author)


Do you want to feel more relaxed, have closer relationships, more easily achieve your goals, and just enjoy your life a whole lot more? Then mindfulness and mindfulness meditations are the simplest, most effective place to start. Mindfulness is now practiced by thousands of people all over the world and has been proven to help you achieve higher levels of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

In this book, Volume 3 of The Meditation for Life Series, you'll discover:

• The ABCs of mindfulness.
• Easy, memorable techniques to bring mindfulness into every area of your life.
• How to create your unique mindfulness practice.
• And much, much more!

This book will answer your most important questions about the concepts of mindfulness explained and...

Kelee Meditation: Free your Mind

Kelee Meditation: Free your Mind
by Ron W. Rathbun (Author)


This book teaches Kelee meditation. This meditation takes 5 minutes to do. The hallmark of Kelee® meditation is that, things that used to bother you, no longer do.

A study at UCSD Medical Center shows Kelee meditation decreases stress, anxiety and depression.

When you learn the fundamental difference between brain and mind, you can learn how to stop repetitive thinking and start observing from a calm, still, state of mind.  This calm state of mind will begin to diminish the three biggest problems that everyone faces-- stress, anxiety and depression.  You can begin to change these conditions before your very eyes, when you start doing Kelee meditation.  

Start today and see for yourself!

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program
by Sharon Salzberg (Author)


Thousands of years prove it, and Western science backs it: Meditation sharpens focus. Meditation lowers blood pressure, relieves chronic pain, reduces stress. Meditation helps us experience greater calm. Meditation connects us to our inner-most feelings and challenges our habits of self-judgment. Meditation helps protect  the brain against aging and improves our capacity for learning new things. Meditation opens the door to real and accessible happiness.

There is no better person to show a beginner how to harness the power of meditation than Sharon Salzberg, one of the world’s foremost meditation teachers and spiritual authors. Cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, author of Lovingkindness, Faith, and other books, Ms. Salzberg distills 30 years of teaching meditation...

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation for Beginners
by Jack Kornfield (Author)


Have you ever thought about trying meditation, but didn’t know how to get started?  With Meditation for Beginners, trusted teacher Jack Kornfield shows you how simple it is to start—and stick with—a daily meditation practice. “Insight” or vipassana meditation is the time-honored skill of calming the spirit and clearing the mind for higher understanding.  Now, in this course created especially for beginners, Kornfield offers a straightforward, step-by-step method for bringing meditation into your life. Using the meditations included in this book, you will discover how easy it is to use your breath, physical sensations—and even difficult emotions—to create tranquility and lovingkindness in your everyday life.  These simple, elegant practices are so easy to learn that you...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com