Electroencephalography

Mindfulness Could Make You Less Swayed By Immediate Rewards

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/mindfulness-rewards-positive-feedback_n_4213365.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

mindfulness rewards

Mindfulness could help you to be less swayed by immediate rewards, a new study suggests.

A study in the journal Emotion shows that people high in mindfulness have less brain activity in response to positive feedback. Mindfulness is the act of nonjudgmental focus on the present moment.

“These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive,” study researcher Rimma Teper, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers tracked brain activity of study participants using electroencephalography as they completed a computer task that involved receiving positive, neutral or negative feedback. Researchers found that participants high in mindfulness showed less brain response to rewarding feedback when compared with other study participants.

A study published earlier in the British Journal of Health Psychology also showed that mindfulness had benefits for self control. In that research, using mindfulness strategies seemed to help people resist sweets, Scientific American reported.

In addition, a study conducted by University of Utah researchers showed that mindfulness is associated with greater emotional stability and self-control over emotions.

Yes, Your Mind Can Control Your Body Temperature | Popular Science

Tibetan nuns prove the physical effects of spiritual activity.

By Colin Lecher Posted 04.08.2013 at 12:59 pm 5 Comments

You don’t have to look far to find the (mostly) positive and surprisingly powerful effects of meditation. But one of the more unexpected effects was just recently published: Tibetan nuns can change their core body temperatures with a certain form of meditation, which could keep them warm and help give their immune systems a boost.

Tibetan nuns practice “g-tummo” meditation, a spiritual practice they believe harnesses “inner energy.” Using EEGs and temperature measurements, a team of researchers recorded the internal temperature of nuns in the freezing cold of the Himalayas. The nuns, the researchers found, were able to increase their core body temperature with this technique–up to almost 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Westerners were also able to increase their core body temperatures slightly when taught the process.

Two techniques, specifically, caused the change. “Vase breath” is a breathing technique that causes heat production, and visualization–in this case, of flames near the spine–also accounted for the increase. Useful if you’re out in the cold, but the technique, researchers say, could also be helpful in strengthening the immune system. Some folks in the remote parts of Tibet can give you some lessons, if you’re interested.

[Science Daily]

via Yes, Your Mind Can Control Your Body Temperature | Popular Science.

 

Research Comparing The Neural Images Of Three Different Types Of Meditation

About the Author: Fred Travis, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, and an Associate Professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management.

There are many systems of meditation that widely differ from one another in their procedures, contents, objects, beliefs, and goals. Given these differences, it is not surprising that research has shown they have different subjective and objective effects. Scientific research on one type of meditation cannot be generalized to effects from any type of meditation.

Let us compare three forms of meditation. Scientific research on the functioning of the brains of practitioners of these techniques have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The three forms in this document are: Mindfulness Meditation (also called Insight Meditation or Vipassana), Tibetan Buddhist Tsonghakapa, and the Transcendental Meditation® technique from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. These three methods have different procedures, different neural images (pictures of the brain or brain functioning), and different EEG patterns (electrical activity of the brain).

Type of Meditation Procedure
Insight, Vipassana, Mindfulness Observation [Reference 1]
Tibetan Buddhism Concentration [2]
Transcendental Meditation Technique Effortless Transcending [3]

Different Neural Images

The neural images of different types of meditation are distinctly different. Brain blood flow and brain metabolic rate can be imaged with modern neural imaging techniques using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or PET (Positron Emission Tomography). These data are from independent labs reports and published research.

Type of Meditation: Mindfulness
Neural Images: Thicker right insula, thicker right frontal, thicker sensory [4]
Explanation: Higher gray matter volume—more connections—are reported in areas used in focusing of attention (right frontal areas) and brain areas involved with sensory perception: the right insula (taste and emotionally relevant context), right parietal (touch) and right temporal (hearing). Thicker cortex suggests these local areas are used during Mindfulness.

Type of Meditation: Tibetan Buddhism
Neural Images: Activity in the frontal (left) increases; activity in the thalamus increases; activity in the parietal lobe decreases. [5]
Explanation: In Tibetan Buddhist Tsonghakapa meditation, activity in the frontal lobe increases—this is what happens when focusing. Activity increases in the thalamus, the gateway of activation to the brain. Activity decreases in the parietal lobe (the area of visual attention, spatial orientation, and cross-modal matching)

Type of Meditation: Transcendental Meditation Technique
Neural Images: Activity in the frontal (left) increases; activity in the thalamus decreases; activity in the parietal lobe increases. [6]
Explanation: During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, frontal lobe activity increases, and so does the parietal lobe. But the thalamus (the gateway of activation to the brain) is less active. This is called restful alertness—pure wakefulness: heightened alertness in the midst of deep silence for mind and body.

The curious reader is invited to read the complete presentation that I gave at the Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson, AZ, April 2006. The complete slideshow also explains in more detail how these three types of meditation compare in terms of brain metabolic rate, and in EEG patterns.

Conclusion

Meditations differ in procedure, in patterns of brain blood flow, brain metabolic rate and EEG patterns. They also differ in reported benefits. One cannot generalize the effects and benefits of one meditation to all meditations.

End Notes

1. Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhism Kargyu tradition has been described as: “Reasoned deconstruction of the reality of objects experienced in meditation, as well as concentrative practices to create moods such as “pure compassion,” “loving kindness” or “no self.” This involves focused attention, and control of the mind. It is a system of concentration.
2. Mindfulness Meditation is described by Paul Grossman as “Systematic procedure to develop enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experiences.” Mindfulness includes two meditation practices: with eyes closed: attention on breath, and with eyes open: “dispassionate observation of body, senses and environment.” This meditation involves intention or directing of attention to physiological rhythms, inner thoughts, sensations or outer objects.
3. EEG (electroencephalogram) tests show that TM is effortless because it is quickly mastered (there is no difference during the practice of TM in the EEG of someone who has been practicing regularly for 10 years versus someone who has been practicing regularly for 4 months). However, the waking state EEG of these subjects are distinctly different (the more months or years the subject has been practicing the TM technique, the more coherent their EEG pattern while resting with their eyes open).
4. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D.
N., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I. & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 1893-7.
5. Newberg, A., Alavi, A., Baime, M., Pourdehnad, M., Santanna, J. & d’Aquili, E. (2001). The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during the complex cognitive task of meditation: a preliminary SPECT study. Psychiatry Research, 106, 113-22.
6. Newberg, A., Travis, F., Wintering, N., Nidich, S., Alavi, A. & Schneider, R. (2006). Cerebral Glucose Metabolic Changes Associated with Transcendental Meditation Practice. Spring meeting, Neural Imaging, Miami, Fl.

Comparing The Neural Images Of Three Different Types Of Meditation.

Controlling Brain Waves May Be Key to Meditation’s Benefits | Psych Central News

The benefits of meditation are well-acknowledged. Yet a scientific explanation of how it works has been conspicuously absent.

Brown University scientists may have helped to overcome this barrier as researchers propose a neurophysiological framework to explain the clinical benefits bestowed by meditation.

Scientists believe 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 thoughts.

The proposal, based on published experimental results and a validated computer simulation of neural networks, is based upon the intimate connection in mindfulness between mind and body. This approach is consistent with standardized mindfulness meditation training that begins with a highly localized focus on body and breath sensations.

The repeated localized sensory focus enhances control over localized alpha rhythms in the part of the brain called the primary somatosensory cortex, where sensations from different body are “mapped,” said researchers.

In a paper found in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers said that by learning to control their focus on the present somatic moment, mindfulness meditators develop a more sensitive “volume knob” for controlling spatially specific, localized sensory cortical alpha rhythms.

Efficient modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in turn enables optimal filtering of sensory information. Meditators learn not only to control what specific body sensations they pay attention to, but also how to regulate attention so that it does not become biased toward negative physical sensations such as chronic pain.

The localized attentional control of somatosensory alpha rhythms becomes generalized to better regulate bias toward internally focused negative thoughts, as in depression.

“We think we’re the first group to propose an underlying neurophysiological mechanism that directly links the actual practice of mindful awareness of breath and body sensations to the kinds of cognitive and emotional benefits that mindfulness confers,” said lead author Catherine Kerr, Ph.D.

In experiments that Kerr and neuroscientist co-authors Drs. Stephanie Jones and Christopher Moore have published over the last few years, the team has used a brain imaging technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG).

In these experiments, the researchers show that alpha rhythms in the cortex correlate with sensory attention and that the ability to regulate localized alpha brainwaves on a millisecond scale is more distinct in people who have had standardized mindfulness training than in those who have not.

Jones developed a computer model that simulated the alpha brainwaves, through reciprocal interactions between the cortex, which processes information and thoughts, and the thalamus, which is like a switchboard that mediates information flow from the rest of the brain to the cortex.

“We were investigating what are the brain mechanisms that can create this prominent alpha rhythm and mediate its impact on sensory processing,” Jones said.

“The model simulates the electrical activity of neural networks and makes very specific predictions about how this rhythm is generated. Once we understand the brain processes regulating alpha rhythm expression, we can better understand how it can be modulated with mindfulness practice and why this is beneficial.”

Among the most important predictions is one that could explain how gaining control of alpha rhythms not only enhances sensory focus on a particular area of the body, but also helps people overcome persistent competing stimuli, such as depressive thoughts or chronic pain signals.

To accomplish this, the model predicts, meditators must achieve proper control over the relative timing and strength of alpha rhythms generated from two separate regions of the thalamus, called thalamic nuclei, that talk to different parts of the cortex. One alpha generator would govern the local “tuning in,” for instance of sensations in a hand, while the other would govern the broader “tuning out” of other sensory or cognitive information in the cortex.

It’s a bit like focusing a telescope by precisely aligning the position of two different lenses. The authors’ framework hypothesizes that experienced meditators gain the ability to turn that proverbial focus knob to align those different rhythms.

In the new paper, the authors propose that training chronic pain patients in the standardized mindfulness techniques of focusing on and then focusing away from pain, should result in MEG-measurable, testable improvements in alpha rhythm control.

“By this process of repeatedly engaging and disengaging alpha dynamics across the body map, according to our alpha theory, subjects are re-learning the process of directly modulating localized alpha rhythms,” they wrote. “We hypothesize that chronic pain patients trained in mindfulness will show increased ability to modulate alpha in an anticipatory tactile attention paradigm similar to that used in [the 2011 study].”

Many such experiments are yet to be done, Kerr acknowledges, and her group can only do so many. “There are a number of hypotheses in this framework that can be tested,” Kerr said. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to put this out as a framework. It is beyond our ability to test all of these ideas. We wanted to make this available to the scientific field and present this unified view.”

Source: Brown University

via Controlling Brain Waves May Be Key to Meditation’s Benefits | Psych Central News.