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In recent years, three attentional networks have been defined in anatomical and functional terms. These functions involve alerting, orienting, and executive attention. Reaction time measures can be used to quantify the processing efficiency within each of these three networks. The Attention Network Test (ANT) is designed to evaluate alerting, orienting, and executive attention within a single 30-min testing session that can be easily performed by children, patients, and monkeys. A study with 40 normal adult subjects indicates that the ANT produces reliable single subject estimates of alerting, orienting, and executive function, and further suggests that the efficiencies of these three networks are uncorrelated. There are, however, some interactions in which alerting and orienting can modulate the degree of interference from flankers. This procedure may prove to be convenient and useful in evaluating attentional abnormalities associated with cases of brain injury, stroke, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit disorder. The ANT may also serve as an activation task for neuroimaging studies and as a phenotype for the study of the influence of genes on attentional networks.

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.

Mindfulness neuroscience is an emerging research field that investigates the underlying mechanisms of different mindfulness practices, different stages and different states of practice as well as different effects of practice over the lifespan. Mindfulness neuroscience research integrates theory and methods from eastern contemplative traditions, western psychology and neuroscience, and from neuroimaging techniques, physiological measures and behavioral tests. We here review several key theoretical and methodological challenges in the empirical study of mindfulness neuroscience and provide suggestions for overcoming these challenges.

Attention is a central theme in cognitive science — it exemplifies the links between the brain and behaviour, and binds psychology to the techniques of neuroscience. A visionary model suggested by Michael Posner described attention as a set of independent control networks. This challenged the previously held view of attention as a uniform concept. The idea that disparate attentional networks correlate with discrete neural circuitry and can be influenced by focal brain injuries, mental state and specific drugs has since been supported by converging data from several modern methodologies. Given the recent explosion in empirical data, attentional typologies provide powerful conceptual tools with which to contextualize and integrate these findings.
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One of the most remarkable things about the human consciousness is that each of us has the capacity to observe our thoughts and feelings as they arise in our consciousness. Why shouldn?t cultivating this ability to observe one?s own mind in action,becoming more self aware or simply more "conscious" be one of the central purposes of education? Even a cursory look at our educational system makes it clear that the relative amount of attention that higher education devotes to the exterior and interior aspects of our lives has gotten way out of balance. Thus, while we are justifiably proud of our "outer" development in fields such as science, medicine, technology, and commerce, we have increasingly come to neglect our "inner" development the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, moral development, spirituality, and self understanding. This growing awareness of the importance of spirituality in higher education was recently underscored by the Templeton Foundation through its award of a $1.9 million grant to UCLA?s Higher Education Research Institute to support a large scale longitudinal study of spiritual development in college undergraduates. A pilot study of 3,700 students enrolled at forty-six colleges and universities was initiated in spring 2003, and a full-scale assessment of 90,000 students enrolling at 150 institutions will be initiated in fall 2004. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about spirituality is that is touches directly on our sense of community. More than anything else, giving spirituality a central place in our institutions will serve to strengthen our sense of connectedness with each other, our students, and our institutions. This enrichment of our sense of community will not only go a long way toward overcoming the sense of fragmentation and alienation that so many of us now feel, but will also help our students to lead more meaningful lives as engaged citizens, loving partners and parents, and caring neighbors.

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