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Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging.

Interest in mindfulness-based interventions for children and adolescents is burgeoning, bringing with it the need for validated instruments to assess mindfulness in youths. The present studies were designed to validate among adolescents a measure of mindfulness previously validated for adults (e.g., Brown & Ryan, 2003), which we herein call the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale—Adolescent (MAAS–A). In 2 large samples of healthy 14- to 18-year-olds (N = 595), Study 1 supported a single-factor MAAS–A structure, along with acceptably high internal consistency, test–retest reliability, and both concurrent and incremental validity. In Study 2, with a sample of 102 psychiatric outpatient adolescents age 14–18 years, participants randomized to a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention showed significant increases in MAAS–A scores from baseline to 3-month follow-up, relative to nonsignificant score changes among treatment-as-usual participants. Increases in MAAS–A scores among mindfulness-based stress reduction participants were significantly related to beneficial changes in numerous mental health indicators. The findings support the reliability and validity of the MAAS–A in normative and mixed psychiatric adolescent populations and suggest that the MAAS–A has utility in mindfulness intervention research.
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This study compared the asymmetry of different features of brain electrical activity during the performance of a verbal task (word finding) and a spatial task (dot localization) that had been carefully matched on psychometric properties and accompanying motor activity. Nineteen right-handed subjects were tested. EEG was recorded from F3, F4, C3, C4, P3, and P4, referred to both CZ and computer-derived averaged-ears references, and Fourier transformed. Power in the delta, theta, alpha, and beta bands was computed. There were significant Task X Hemisphere effects in all bands for CZ-referenced data and for the alpha and beta bands for ears-referenced data. The effects were always either greater power suppression in the hemisphere putatively most engaged in task processing or greater power in the opposite hemisphere. Correlations between EEG and task performance indicated that CZ-referenced parietal alpha asymmetry accounted for the most variance in verbal task performance. Power within individual hemispheres or across hemispheres was unrelated to task performance. The findings indicate robust differences in asymmetrical brain physiology that are produced by well-matched verbal and spatial cognitive tasks.
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In the past two decades, the familiar experience of attention - the emphasis on a particular mental activity so that it "fills the mind" - has been subjected to much scientific inquiry. David LaBerge now provides a systematic view of the attention process as it occurs in everyday perception, thinking, and action. Drawing from a variety of research methods and findings from cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and computer science, he presents a masterful synthesis of what is understood about attentional processing. LaBerge explores how we are able to restrict the input of extraneous and confusing information, or prepare to process a future stimulus, in order to take effective action. As well as describing the pathways in the cortex presumed to be involved in attentional processing, he examines the hypothesis that two subcortical structures, the superior colliculus and the thalamus, contain circuit mechanisms that embody an algorithm of attention. In addition, he takes us through various ways of posing the problem, from an information-processing description of how attention works to a consideration of some of the cognitive and behavioral consequences of the brain's computations, such as desiring, judging, imaging, and remembering. Attentional Processing is a highly sophisticated integration of contributions from several fields of neuroscience. It brings together the latest efforts to solve the puzzle of attention: how it works, how it is modulated, what its benefits are, and how it is expressed in the brain.

Assessed the cortical concomitants of selective mode-specific attention in Ss differing in the capacity for sustained attentional involvement. 10 high- and 10 low-scoring Ss on the Tellegen Absorption Scale were required to (a) simply attend to either a randomly flashing light or a randomly produced tapping sensation on the forearm during one block of trials and to (b) count the flashes and the taps during another trial block. The EEG was recorded from the left occipital and left sensorimotor regions and was filtered for alpha activity and quantified on line. Selective mode-specific attention produced reliable shifts in cortical patterning between kinesthetic and visual attention trials. During the counting condition, high-scoring Ss showed significantly greater specificity in cortical patterning than did low-scoring Ss. This difference was primarily a function of high-scoring Ss' ability to inhibit activation in the occipital region while counting taps. Findings suggest that high scores on the Absorption scale are associated with a flexible attentional style and that, given the requisite task demands, attentionally absorbed Ss show greater mode-specific cortical patterning during selective attention than do low scorers. (36 ref)
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Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.

Drawing its main source of inspiration from a naturalized interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology, On Becoming Aware: A Pragmatics of Experiencing attempts to examine closely the nature of experience and how we may become aware of our own mental life. The authors also focus on how this project fits into the larger context of cognitive science, psychology, neurosciences, and philosophy. Additional partners in the effort to better understand experience are the contemplative systems of the world's spiritual or wisdom traditions, including particularly that of Buddhism. The book includes three separate glossaries of technical terms in phenomenology, the cognitive sciences, and Tibetan Buddhism. The book On Becoming Aware seeks a disciplined and practical approach to exploring human experience. While much of the book draws its inspiration from the phenomenological theories of Husserl, other approaches to the direct study of experience are also explored in depth. One of these approaches is embodied by the world's spiritual or wisdom or contemplative traditions such as Sufism, Buddhism, the Philokalia tradition, and others. Collectively, these traditions have come upon a variety of their own insights and methods for understanding experience, or, to use words from the phenomenological tradition, has developed its own ways of phenomenological reduction Amongst the various wisdom traditions, the authors focus mainly on Buddhism. The authors give an introduction to Buddhist theory and history, followed by an in-depth discussion of the Buddhist contemplative practices of mindfulness, śamatha, vipaśyanā, tonglen (gtong len), lojong (blo sbyong), dzokchen (rdzogs chen), and mahāmudrā. The authors then relate this discussion to themes from philosophy and phenomenology explored earlier in the book, paricularly Husserl's concept of épochè. (Zach Rowinski 2005-01-17) Publisher's description: This book searches for the sources and means for a disciplined practical approach to exploring human experience. The spirit of this book is pragmatic and relies on a Husserlian phenomenology primarily understood as a method of exploring our experience. The authors do not aim at a neo-Kantian a priori ‘new theory’ of experience but instead they describe a concrete activity: how we examine what we live through, how we become aware of our own mental life. The range of experiences of which we can become aware is vast: all the normal dimensions of human life (perception, motion, memory, imagination, speech, everyday social interactions), cognitive events that can be precisely defined as tasks in laboratory experiments (e.g., a protocol for visual attention), but also manifestations of mental life more fraught with meaning (dreaming, intense emotions, social tensions, altered states of consciousness). The central assertion in this work is that this immanent ability is habitually ignored or at best practiced unsystematically, that is to say, blindly. Exploring human experience amounts to developing and cultivating this basic ability through specific training. Only a hands-on, non-dogmatic approach can lead to progress, and that is what animates this book.

Mindfulness is an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being. This research provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being. The development and psychometric properties of the dispositional Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) are described. Correlational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies then show that the MAAS measures a unique quality of consciousness that is related to a variety of well-being constructs, that differentiates mindfulness practitioners from others, and that is associated with enhanced self-awareness. An experience-sampling study shows that both dispositional and state mindfulness predict self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states. Finally, a clinical intervention study with cancer patients demonstrates that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress.

We have studied a number of long-term meditators in previous studies. The purpose of this study was to determine if there are differences in baseline brain function of experienced meditators compared to non-meditators. All subjects were recruited as part of an ongoing study of different meditation practices. We evaluated 12 advanced meditators and 14 non-meditators with cerebral blood flow (CBF) SPECT imaging at rest. Images were analyzed with both region of interest and statistical parametric mapping. The CBF of long-term meditators was significantly higher (p < .05) compared to non-meditators in the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, thalamus, putamen, caudate, and midbrain. There was also a significant difference in the thalamic laterality with long-term meditators having greater asymmetry. The observed changes associated with long-term meditation appear in structures that underlie the attention network and also those that relate to emotion and autonomic function.

The heart rate, breathing rate, and skin resistance were recorded for 20 community home girls (Home group) and for 20 age-matched girls from a regular school (School group). The former group had a significantly higher rate of breathing and a more irregular breath pattern known to correlate with high fear and anxiety, than the School group. Skin resistance was significantly lower in the School group, which may suggest greater arousal, 28 girls of the Home group formed 14 pairs, matched for age and duration of stay in the home. Subjects of a pair were randomly assigned to either yoga or games groups. For the former emphasis was on relaxation and awareness, whereas for the latter increasing physical activity was emphasized. At the end of an hour daily for six months both groups showed a significant decrease in the resting heart rate relative to initial values (Wilcoxon paired-sample rest), and the yoga group showed a significant decrease in breath rate, which appeared more regular but no significant increase in the skin resistance. These results suggest that a yoga program which includes relaxation, awareness, and graded physical activity is a useful addition to the routine of community home children.
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Divides the study of human attention into 3 components: alertness, selectivity, and processing capacity. Experimental techniques designed to separate these components and examine their interrelations within comparable tasks are outlined. It is shown that a stimulus may be used to increase alertness for processing all external information, to improve selection of particular stimuli, or to do both simultaneously. Development of alertness and selectivity are separable, but may go on together without interference. Moreover, encoding a stimulus may proceed without producing interference with other signals. Thus, the contact between an external stimulus and its representation in memory does not appear to require processing capacity. Limited capacity results are obtained when mental operations, E.g., response selection or rehearsal, must be performed on the encoded information. (45 ref.)

Contemplative practices are believed to alleviate psychological problems, cultivate prosocial behavior and promote self-awareness. In addition, psychological science has developed tools and models for understanding the mind and promoting well-being. Additional effort is needed to combine frameworks and techniques from these traditions to improve emotional experience and socioemotional behavior. An 8-week intensive (42 hr) meditation/emotion regulation training intervention was designed by experts in contemplative traditions and emotion science to reduce “destructive enactment of emotions” and enhance prosocial responses. Participants were 82 healthy female schoolteachers who were randomly assigned to a training group or a wait-list control group, and assessed preassessment, postassessment, and 5 months after training completion. Assessments included self-reports and experimental tasks to capture changes in emotional behavior. The training group reported reduced trait negative affect, rumination, depression, and anxiety, and increased trait positive affect and mindfulness compared to the control group. On a series of behavioral tasks, the training increased recognition of emotions in others (Micro-Expression Training Tool), protected trainees from some of the psychophysiological effects of an experimental threat to self (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST), appeared to activate cognitive networks associated with compassion (lexical decision procedure), and affected hostile behavior in the Marital Interaction Task. Most effects at postassessment that were examined at follow-up were maintained (excluding positive affect, TSST rumination, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia recovery). Findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior, and they support the benefit of integrating contemplative theories/practices with psychological models and methods of emotion regulation.

This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.
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This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.

This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.

This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.
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Between June 2004 and April 2005, the Garrison Institute… mapped the current status of programs utilizing contemplative techniques with mainstream student populations in K-12 educational settings. The Mapping Project sought to identify similarities and differences in program pedagogy and methodology…

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