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Although research has found that long-term mindfulness meditation practice promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention, the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training have not been fully explored. We examined whether brief meditation training affects cognition and mood when compared to an active control group. After four sessions of either meditation training or listening to a recorded book, participants with no prior meditation experience were assessed with measures of mood, verbal fluency, visual coding, and working memory. Both interventions were effective at improving mood but only brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Our findings suggest that 4 days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test (ANT; Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz, & Posner, 2002). Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.

Two experiments examined the relation between mindfulness practice and cognitive rigidity by using a variation of the Einstellung water jar task. Participants were required to use three hypothetical jars to obtain a specific amount of water. Initial problems were solvable by the same complex formula, but in later problems (“critical” or “trap” problems) solving was possible by an additional much simpler formula. A rigidity score was compiled through perseverance of the complex formula. In Experiment 1, experienced mindfulness meditators received significantly lower rigidity scores than non-meditators who had registered for their first meditation retreat. Similar results were obtained in randomized controlled Experiment 2 comparing non-meditators who underwent an eight meeting mindfulness program with a waiting list group. The authors conclude that mindfulness meditation reduces cognitive rigidity via the tendency to be “blinded” by experience. Results are discussed in light of the benefits of mindfulness practice regarding a reduced tendency to overlook novel and adaptive ways of responding due to past experience, both in and out of the clinical setting.

Studies have suggested that the default mode network is active during mind wandering, which is often experienced intermittently during sustained attention tasks. Conversely, an anticorrelated task-positive network is thought to subserve various forms of attentional processing. Understanding how these two systems work together is central for understanding many forms of optimal and sub-optimal task performance. Here we present a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations between mind wandering and attentional states derived from the practice of focused attention meditation. This model proposes four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. People who train in this style of meditation cultivate their abilities to monitor cognitive processes related to attention and distraction, making them well suited to report on these mental events. Fourteen meditation practitioners performed breath-focused meditation while undergoing fMRI scanning. When participants realized their mind had wandered, they pressed a button and returned their focus to the breath. The four intervals above were then constructed around these button presses. We hypothesized that periods of mind wandering would be associated with default mode activity, whereas cognitive processes engaged during awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention and sustained attention would engage attentional subnetworks. Analyses revealed activity in brain regions associated with the default mode during mind wandering, and in salience network regions during awareness of mind wandering. Elements of the executive network were active during shifting and sustained attention. Furthermore, activations during these cognitive phases were modulated by lifetime meditation experience. These findings support and extend theories about cognitive correlates of distributed brain networks.

<p>A fascinating cornucopia of new ideas, based on fundamentals of neurobiology, psychology, psychiatry and therapy, this book extends boundaries of current concepts of consciousness. Its eclectic mix will simulate and challenge not only neuroscientists and psychologists but entice others interested in exploring consciousness. Contributions from top researchers in consciousness and related fields project diverse ideas, focused mainly on conscious nonconscious interactions: 1. Paving the way for new research on basic scientific - physiological, pharmacological or neurochemical - mechanisms underpinning conscious experience ( bottom up approach); 2. Providing directions on how psychological processes are involved in consciousness ( top down approach); 3. Indicating how including consciousness could lead to new understanding of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, dementia, and addiction; 4. More provocatively, but still based on scientific evidence, exploring consciousness beyond conventional boundaries, indicating the potential for radical new thinking or quantum leaps in neuroscientific theories of consciousness. (Series B)</p>
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Long-term Vipassana meditators sat in meditation vs. a control rest (mind-wandering) state for 21 min in a counterbalanced design with spontaneous EEG recorded. Meditation state dynamics were measured with spectral decomposition of the last 6 min of the eyes-closed silent meditation compared to control state. Meditation was associated with a decrease in frontal delta (1–4 Hz) power, especially pronounced in those participants not reporting drowsiness during meditation. Relative increase in frontal theta (4–8 Hz) power was observed during meditation, as well as significantly increased parieto-occipital gamma (35–45 Hz) power, but no other state effects were found for the theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–12 Hz), or beta (12–25 Hz) bands. Alpha power was sensitive to condition order, and more experienced meditators exhibited no tendency toward enhanced alpha during meditation relative to the control task. All participants tended to exhibit decreased alpha in association with reported drowsiness. Cross-experimental session occipital gamma power was the greatest in meditators with a daily practice of 10+ years, and the meditation-related gamma power increase was similarly the strongest in such advanced practitioners. The findings suggest that long-term Vipassana meditation contributes to increased occipital gamma power related to long-term meditational expertise and enhanced sensory awareness.

Pain can be modulated by several cognitive techniques, typically involving increased cognitive control and decreased sensory processing. Recently, it has been demonstrated that pain can also be attenuated by mindfulness. 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.

Several authors have argued that because mindfulness training involves repeated practice of the self-regulation of attention, it should lead to measurable improvements in attentional skills and related memory processes. Although a few studies have shown relationships between mindfulness training and performance-based tests of attention and memory, findings are mixed. In the present study, a sample of 33 adults with a long-term mindfulness meditation practice (average duration of 6 years) was compared with a demographically matched sample of nonmeditators on several widely used tests of attention and memory functioning, including sustained attention, attention switching, inhibition of elaborative processing, working memory, and short- and long-term memory. Group differences were nonsignificant for all of the attentional tasks. The only significant group differences were in short-term memory (both free and cued recall) and long-term memory (free recall only). Results suggest that the nature of the attentional and memory processing that is cultivated by mindfulness training requires clarification.

Mindfulness-based meditation practices involve various attentional skills, including the ability to sustain and focus ones attention. During a simple mindful breathing practice, sustained attention is required to maintain focus on the breath while cognitive control is required to detect mind wandering. We thus hypothesized that regular, brief mindfulness training would result in improvements in the self-regulation of attention and foster changes in neuronal activity related to attentional control. A longitudinal randomized control group EEG study was conducted. At baseline (T1), 40 meditation naïve participants were randomized into a wait list group and a meditation group, who received three hours mindfulness meditation training. Twenty-eight participants remained in the final analysis. At T1, after eight weeks (T2) and after 16 weeks (T3), all participants performed a computerized Stroop task (a measure of attentional control) while the 64-channel EEG was recorded. Between T1 and T3 the meditators were requested to meditate daily for 10 min. Event-related potential (ERP) analysis highlighted two between group effects that developed over the course of the 16-week mindfulness training. An early effect at left and right posterior sites 160–240 ms post-stimulus indicated that meditation practice improved the focusing of attentional resources. A second effect at central posterior sites 310–380 ms post-stimulus reflects that meditation practice reduced the recruitment of resources during object recognition processes, especially for incongruent stimuli. Scalp topographies and source analyses (Variable Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography, VARETA) indicate relevant changes in neural sources, pertaining to left medial and lateral occipitotemporal areas for the early effect and right lateral occipitotemporal and inferior temporal areas for the later effect. The results suggest that mindfulness meditation may alter the efficiency of allocating cognitive resources, leading to improved self-regulation of attention.

<p>The purpose of this study was to add to the empirical literature in the growing area of psychological flexibility. Specifically, this study investigated the Buddhist practices of nonattachment, self-compassion, and meditation as they related to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) construct of psychological flexibility among Buddhists. In addition, it was examined whether differences existed in levels of psychological flexibility among Buddhists and other religious and spiritually oriented individuals. Buddhist participants (N = 299) completed the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire - II (AAQ-II), Nonattachment Scale (NAS), Self-Compassion Scale - Short Form (SCS-SF), and a demographic questionnaire. Non-Buddhist participants (N=303) completed the AAQ-II and demographic questionnaire. Although findings indicated significant differences in degrees of psychological flexibility between Buddhists and non-Buddhists, the actual difference in mean scores was very small. Number of years of regular meditation practice, nonattachment, and self-compassion contributed to a significant degree of variance in degree of psychological flexibility among Buddhists, while the overall model was significant, accounting for ( R 2 ) 42.2% of the variance in psychological flexibility. Implications of results for clinical practice and counselor education, along with recommendations for future research are discussed.</p>

Five experienced practitioners of transcendental meditation spent appreciable parts of meditation sessions in sleep stages 2, 3, and 4. Time spent in each sleep stage varied both between sessions for a given subject and between subjects. In addition, we compare electroencephalogram records made during meditation with those made during naps taken at the same time of day. The range of states observed during meditation does not support the view that meditation produces a single, unique state of consciousness.

Brain oscillatory activity is associated with different cognitive processes and plays a critical role in meditation. In this study, we investigated the temporal dynamics of oscillatory changes during Sahaj Samadhi meditation (a concentrative form of meditation that is part of Sudarshan Kriya yoga). EEG was recorded during Sudarshan Kriya yoga meditation for meditators and relaxation for controls. Spectral and coherence analysis was performed for the whole duration as well as specific blocks extracted from the initial, middle, and end portions of Sahaj Samadhi meditation or relaxation. The generation of distinct meditative states of consciousness was marked by distinct changes in spectral powers especially enhanced theta band activity during deep meditation in the frontal areas. Meditators also exhibited increased theta coherence compared to controls. The emergence of the slow frequency waves in the attention-related frontal regions provides strong support to the existing claims of frontal theta in producing meditative states along with trait effects in attentional processing. Interestingly, increased frontal theta activity was accompanied reduced activity (deactivation) in parietal–occipital areas signifying reduction in processing associated with self, space and, time.

The Star Counting Test (SCT) has been developed to measure the regulatory function of attention. In a previous study it was shown that the SCT is suited for assessment of this attentional aspect with children. The present study concerns a more difficult version aimed at young adults. In the literature, the regulatory function of attention is increasingly stressed and it has been linked to working memory functioning. In order to further determine the validity of the SCT, performance was checked against two kinds of measures relating to working memory, i.e. Digit Span and Computational Span. These tasks both call for storage but differ in their claims on the processing component of working memory. Using confirmatory factor analysis substantial correlations were demonstrated with either of these measures. As expected, the correlations tended to rise with increasing demands on the processing component. Test scores were further compared with self-reported cognitive failures. No significant relation appeared to exist. The results are interpreted in terms of demands on the regulatory function of attention.

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