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The aim of mindfulness meditation is to develop present-focused, non-judgmental, attention. Therefore, experience in meditation should be associated with less anticipation and negative appraisal of pain. In this study we compared a group of individuals with meditation experience to a control group to test whether any differences in the affective appraisal of pain could be explained by lower anticipatory neural processing. Anticipatory and pain-evoked ERPs and reported pain unpleasantness were recorded in response to laser stimuli of matched subjective intensity between the two groups. ERP data were analysed after source estimation with LORETA. No group effects were found on the laser energies used to induce pain. More experienced meditators perceived the pain as less unpleasant relative to controls, with meditation experience correlating inversely with unpleasantness ratings. ERP source data for anticipation showed that in meditators, lower activity in midcingulate cortex relative to controls was related to the lower unpleasantness ratings, and was predicted by lifetime meditation experience. Meditators also reversed the normal positive correlation between medial prefrontal cortical activity and pain unpleasantness during anticipation. Meditation was also associated with lower activity in S2 and insula during the pain-evoked response, although the experiment could not disambiguate this activity from the preceding anticipation response. Our data is consistent with the hypothesis that meditation reduces the anticipation and negative appraisal of pain, but effects on pain-evoked activity are less clear and may originate from preceding anticipatory activity. Further work is required to directly test the causal relationship between meditation, pain anticipation, and pain experience.

This study investigated the link between meditation, self-reported mindfulness and cognitive flexibility as well as other attentional functions. It compared a group of meditators experienced in mindfulness meditation with a meditation-naïve control group on measures of Stroop interference and the “d2-concentration and endurance test”. Overall the results suggest that attentional performance and cognitive flexibility are positively related to meditation practice and levels of mindfulness. Meditators performed significantly better than non-meditators on all measures of attention. Furthermore, self-reported mindfulness was higher in meditators than non-meditators and correlations with all attention measures were of moderate to high strength. This pattern of results suggests that mindfulness is intimately linked to improvements of attentional functions and cognitive flexibility. The relevance of these findings for mental balance and well-being are discussed.

Meditation is a mental training, which involves attention and the ability to maintain focus on a particular object. In this study we have applied a specific attentional task to simply measure the performance of the participants with different levels of meditation experience, rather than evaluating meditation practice per se or task performance during meditation. Our objective was to evaluate the performance of regular meditators and non-meditators during an fMRI adapted Stroop Word-Colour Task (SWCT), which requires attention and impulse control, using a block design paradigm. We selected 20 right-handed regular meditators and 19 non-meditators matched for age, years of education and gender. Participants had to choose the colour (red, blue or green) of single words presented visually in three conditions: congruent, neutral and incongruent. Non-meditators showed greater activity than meditators in the right medial frontal, middle temporal, precentral and postcentral gyri and the lentiform nucleus during the incongruent conditions. No regions were more activated in meditators relative to non-meditators in the same comparison. Non-meditators showed an increased pattern of brain activation relative to regular meditators under the same behavioural performance level. This suggests that meditation training improves efficiency, possibly via improved sustained attention and impulse control.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the mindfulness construct and the mental health benefits associated with mindfulness-based programmes, the relation between mindfulness and its proposed core component attention was studied. Buddhist and Western mindfulness meditators were compared with non-meditators on tasks of sustained (SART) and executive (the Stroop Task) attention. Relations between self-reported mindfulness (FFMQ) and sustained and executive attention were also analysed. No significant differences were found between meditators and non-meditators either in sustained or executive attention. High scores on the FFMQ total scale and on Describe were related to fewer SART errors. High scores on Describe were also related to low Stroop interference. Mindfulness meditators may have an increased awareness of internal processes and the ability to quickly attend to them but this type of refined attentional ability does not seem to be related to performance on attention tests requiring responses to external targets.

<p>Meditation is now one of the most enduring, widespread, and researched of all psychotherapeutic methods. However, to date the meeting of the meditative disciplines and Western psychology has been marred by significant misunderstandings and by an assimilative integration in which much of the richness and uniqueness of meditation and its psychologies and philosophies have been overlooked. Also overlooked have been their major implications for an understanding of such central psychological issues as cognition and attention, mental training and development, health and pathology, and psychological capacities and potentials. Investigating meditative traditions with greater cultural and conceptual sensitivity opens the possibility of a mutual enrichment of both the meditative traditions and Western psychology, with far-reaching benefits for both.</p>

The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.

The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.
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Three studies illustrate that mindful attention prevents impulses toward attractive food. Participants received a brief mindfulness procedure in which they observed their reactions to external stimuli as transient mental events rather than subjectively real experiences. Participants then applied this procedure to viewing pictures of highly attractive and neutral food items. Finally, reactions to food stimuli were assessed with an implicit approach-avoidance task. Across experiments, spontaneous approach reactions elicited by attractive food were fully eliminated in the mindful attention condition compared to the control condition, in which participants viewed the same items without mindful attention. These effects were maintained over a 5-minute distraction period. Our findings suggest that mindful attention to one’s own mental experiences helps to control impulsive responses and thus suggest mindfulness as a potentially powerful method for facilitating self-regulation.
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Abstract Mindfulness has been incorporated into several treatment approaches for psychopathology. Despite the popularity of this approach, relatively few empirical investigations have examined the relationship between mindfulness and autonomic indicators of flexible emotion regulation, such as heart rate variability (HRV). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been associated with both low levels of mindfulness and HRV. In this investigation, we examined the relationship between HRV and mindfulness in the context of elevated generalized anxiety (GA) symptoms—an analog for GAD—by examining whether GA level moderated this relationship. HRV was collected while participants completed self-report measures of GA and trait mindfulness. GA level interacted with mindfulness in the prediction of HRV; in the high GA, but not low GA group, mindfulness was positively associated with HRV. This suggests that for individuals with high GA, mindfulness may enhance parasympathetic influences on the heart rate. We address the limitations of the current investigation and suggest avenues for future research on mindfulness-related changes in tonic and phasic HRV over time.

This study examined the relationship between the executive control process of inhibition and self-reported dispositional mindfulness, controlling for gender, grade, and cortisol levels in 99 (43% female) fourth- and fifth-graders ( = 10.23 years, SD = 0.53). Students completed a measure of mindful attention awareness and a computerized executive function (EF) task assessing inhibitory control. Morning cortisol levels also were collected and were used as an indicator of neuroendocrine regulation. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for gender, grade, and cortisol levels, higher scores on the mindfulness attention awareness measure significantly predicted greater accuracy (% correct responses) on the inhibitory control task. This research contributes to understanding the predictors of EF skills in early adolescents’ cognitive development. Specifically, it identifies mindfulness—a skill that can be fostered and trained in intervention programs to promote health and well-being—as significantly related to inhibitory processes in early adolescence.
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<p>A number of books have explored the ways psychotherapy clients can benefit from learning and practicing mindfulness. This is the first volume to focus specifically on how mindfulness can deepen the therapeutic relationship. Grounded in research, chapters demonstrate how therapists' own mindfulness practice can help them to listen more attentively and be more fully present. Leading proponents of different treatment approaches—including behavioral, psychodynamic, and family systems perspectives—illustrate a variety of ways that mindfulness principles can complement standard techniques and improve outcomes by strengthening the connection between therapist and client. Also presented are practical strategies for integrating mindfulness into clinical training.</p>

<p>This study was designed to test the hypothesis that mindfulness involves sustained attention, attention switching, inhibition of elaborative processing and non-directed attention. Healthy adults were tested before and after random assignment to an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course (n = 39) or a wait-list control (n = 33). Testing included measures of sustained attention, attention switching, Stroop interference (as a measure of inhibition of elaborative processing), detection of objects in consistent or inconsistent scenes (as a measure of non-directed attention), as well as self-report measures of emotional well-being and mindfulness. Participation in the MBSR course was associated with significantly greater improvements in emotional well-being and mindfulness, but no improvements in attentional control relative to the control group. However, improvements in mindfulness after MBSR were correlated with improvements in object detection. We discuss the implications of these results as they relate to the role of attention in mindfulness. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd.</p>

Objective There is a growing scientific interest in mindfulness meditation (MM), yet its underlying neurophysiological mechanism is still uncertain. We investigated whether MM affects self-referential processing, associated with default mode network (DMN), either as short (state) – or long-term (trait) effects. Methods Three levels of MM expertise were compared with controls (n = 12 each) by electroencephalography (EEG). Results DMN deactivation was identified during the transition from resting state to a time production task, as lower gamma (25–45 Hz) power over frontal and midline regions. MM practitioners exhibited a trait lower frontal gamma activity, related to narrative self-reference and DMN activity, as well as producing longer durations, these being negatively correlated with frontal gamma activity. Additionally, we found state increases in posterior gamma power, suggesting increased attention and sensory awareness. MM proficiency did not affect the results. Conclusions Gamma power over frontal midline areas reflects DMN activity. MM practitioners exhibit lower trait frontal gamma activity, as well as a state and trait increases in posterior gamma power, irrespective of practice proficiency. Significance First, the DMN can be studied non-invasively by EEG. Second, MM induces from the early stages of practice neuroplasticity in self-referential and attentional networks.

In theory, mindfulness has a role to play in resolving intercultural conflicts. This suggestion rests upon the relatively untested presumption that mindfulness operates similarly across cultures. In a test of this presumption, university students from two countries that are often in conflict at the governmental level, Iran (N=723) and the United States (N=900), responded to the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Brown and Ryan Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(4):822-848, 2003), along with an array of other psychological measures. This Mindfulness Scale displayed structural complexities in both societies, but a measurement invariant subscale was nevertheless identified. Similar cross-cultural evidence of concurrent validity was obtained in relationships with wide-ranging measures of adjustment. Nonsignificant linkages with Public Self-Consciousness and Self-Monitoring demonstrated discriminant validity in both societies. These data identified mindfulness as a cross-culturally similar psychological process that could plausibly have a role in resolving intercultural conflicts.
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This article presents a conceptual model for the mindfulness-based psychotherapeutic treatment of chronic pain. It describes the process of mindfulness meditation and places it in the context of a practical model for conceptualizing pain. It presents case vignettes on the phenomenology and treatment of chronic pain. Resources for mindfulness are presented.

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.

Objective: ADHD is a childhood-onset psychiatric condition that often continues into adulthood. Stimulant medications are the mainstay of treatment; however, additional approaches are frequently desired. In recent years, mindfulness meditation has been proposed to improve attention, reduce stress, and improve mood. This study tests the feasibility of an 8-week mindfulness training program for adults and adolescents with ADHD. Method: Twenty-four adults and eight adolescents with ADHD enrolled in a feasibility study of an 8-week mindfulness training program. Results: The majority of participants completed the training and reported high satisfaction with the training. Pre—post improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms and test performance on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition were noted. Improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms were also observed. Conclusion: Mindfulness training is a feasible intervention in a subset of ADHD adults and adolescents and may improve behavioral and neurocognitive impairments. A controlled clinical study is warranted. (J. of Att. Dis. 2008; 11(6) 737-746)

Mindfulness training has had salutary effects with adult populations and it is seen as a potentially helpful to children’s development. How to implement mindfulness practices with young children is not yet clear; some meditation practices, like sitting still for long periods with internally-self-regulated focused attention, seem developmentally inappropriate. Montessori schooling is a 100-year-old system that naturally incorporates practices that align with mindfulness and are suited to very young children. Here I describe how several aspects of Montessori education, including privileging concentrated attention, attending to sensory experience, and engaging in practical work, parallel mindfulness practices. These aspects might be responsible for some of the socio-emotional and executive function benefits that have been associated with Montessori education, and they could be adapted to conventional classroom methods.
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<p>Interest in mindfulness and its enhancement has burgeoned in recent years. In this article, we discuss in detail the nature of mindfulness and its relation to other, established theories of attention and awareness in day-to-day life. We then examine theory and evidence for the role of mindfulness in curtailing negative functioning and enhancing positive outcomes in several important life domains, including mental health, physical health, behavioral regulation, and interpersonal relationships. The processes through which mindfulness is theorized to have its beneficial effects are then discussed, along with proposed directions for theoretical development and empirical research.</p>

The current study investigated the feasibility of implementing a 10-week mindfulness-based intervention with a group of incarcerated adolescents. Before and after completion of the 10-week intervention, 32 participants filled out self-report questionnaires on trait mindfulness, self-regulation, and perceived stress. We hypothesized that self-reported mindfulness and self-regulation would significantly increase, and perceived stress would significantly decrease, as a result of participation in the treatment intervention. Paired t-tests revealed a significant decrease (p < .05) in perceived stress and a significant increase (p < .001) in healthy self-regulation. No significant differences were found on self-reported mindfulness. Results suggest that mindfulness-based interventions are feasible for incarcerated adolescents. Limitations and future research are discussed.
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This article discusses the results of three elementary school teachers’ feedback from a mindfulness-training program. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to what’s happening now without judgment. The training consisted of breathwork, bodyscan, movement, and sensorimotor activities. Results of interviews with the teachers revealed that teachers used the mindfulness skills to (a) aid in curriculum development and implementation, (b) deal with conflict and anxiety, (c) improve the quality of their personal lives, and (d) facilitate positive changes in the classroom.
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<p>We investigated the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training (CBT/MT) on attentional task performance in incarcerated adolescents. Attention is a cognitive system necessary for managing cognitive demands and regulating emotions. Yet persistent and intensive demands, such as those experienced during high-stress intervals like incarceration and the events leading to incarceration, may deplete attention resulting in cognitive failures, emotional disturbances, and impulsive behavior. We hypothesized that CBT/MT may mitigate these deleterious effects of high stress and protect against degradation in attention over the high-stress interval of incarceration. Using a quasi-experimental, group randomized controlled trial design, we randomly assigned dormitories of incarcerated youth, ages 16–18, to a CBT/MT intervention (youth n = 147) or an active control intervention (youth n = 117). Both arms received approximately 750 min of intervention in a small-group setting over a 3–5 week period. Youth in the CBT/MT arm also logged the amount of out-of-session time spent practicing MT exercises. The Attention Network Test was used to index attentional task performance at baseline and 4 months post-baseline. Overall, task performance degraded over time in all participants. The magnitude of performance degradation was significantly less in the CBT/MT vs. control arm. Further, within the CBT/MT arm, performance degraded over time in those with no outside-of-class practice time, but remained stable over time in those who practiced mindfulness exercises outside of the session meetings. Thus, these findings suggest that sufficient CBT/MT practice may protect against functional attentional impairments associated with high-stress intervals.</p>
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