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OBJECTIVE: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees. METHODS: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. RESULTS: We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
- Contemplation by Applied Subject,
- Psychiatry and Contemplation,
- Medical Research on Contemplative Practice,
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction / Cognitive Therapy,
- Psychotherapy and Contemplation,
- Health Care and Contemplation,
- Neuroscience and Contemplation,
- Physiology and Contemplation,
- Science and Contemplation
This project involves developing syllabi for two courses, an introduction to American Studies and an English Department senior seminar. It focuses on nature writers-not only literary authors, but natural and social scientists-who are also contemplatives: Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Richard Nelson, Terry Tempest Williams, Linda Hogan and others. Themes explored in these texts include dwelling, home and universe, comparative traditions, science, travel, the lessons of history, embodiment, ecofeminism, green movements and environmental justice, and imaginative versions of landscape by the privileged juxtaposed to the lived experience of the disempowered. Since contemplation of nature is what most nature writers in fact do, students involve themselves as well in contemplative practice. They begin each class period with meditation as a centering exercise; write contemplative journal entries on their readings; and reflect deeply on these entries and turn them into papers. Further, the act of contemplation for nature writers does not end in solitude, but in emergence in a connection to the world. To this end, there is a community service component in these courses, compulsory in the introductory course and voluntary in the senior seminar.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week training that is designed to teach participants mindful awareness of the present moment. In randomized clinical trials (RCTs), MBSR has demonstrated efficacy in various conditions including reducing chronic pain-related distress and improving quality of life in healthy individuals. There have, however, been no qualitative studies investigating participants' descriptions of changes experienced over multiple time points during the course of the programme. This qualitative study of an MBSR cohort (N = 8 healthy individuals) in a larger RCT examined participants' daily diary descriptions of their home-practice experiences. The study used a two-part method, combining grounded theory with a close-ended coding approach. The grounded theory analysis revealed that during the trial, all participants, to varying degrees, described moments of distress related to practice; at the end of the course, all participants who completed the training demonstrated greater detail and clarity in their descriptions, improved affect, and the emergence of an observing self. The closed-ended coding schema, carried out to shed light on the development of an observing self, revealed that the emergence of an observing self was not related to the valence of participants' experiential descriptions: even participants whose diaries contained predominantly negative characterizations of their experience throughout the trial were able, by the end of the trial, to demonstrate an observing, witnessing attitude towards their own distress. Progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experiences and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message: This article • Analyses the ways in which participants in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) clinical trial describe their experiences with mindfulness practice. • Carries out qualitative analysis of the ways in which participants' descriptions of home-based meditation practice contained in their practice diaries change over the course of an 8-week MBSR trial. • Demonstrates that the participants who successfully completed the 8-week course show a common developmental trajectory, as each participant used less reactive, judgemental language to describe their home meditative practice-based experiences by the end of the trial, even when, in the case of some participants, that experience was perceived as negative or distressing. • Suggests that progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experience and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience.
Prior research has demonstrated that people who are more connected with nature report more subjective well-being. However, guided by the sensitization model of well-being, we expected that the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being would only be significant for those who tend to engage in nature's beauty (i.e., experience positive emotional responses when witnessing nature's beauty). In Study 1, we found the positive relation between connectedness with nature and life satisfaction was only significant for individuals higher, and not those lower, on engagement with natural beauty. Study 2 conceptually replicated this finding using self-esteem as an outcome. Moreover, the results were not affected by age, gender, Big Five personality traits (Study 1) or social desirability (Study 2). Thus, the current research extends past literature and demonstrates that connectedness with nature only predicts well-being when individuals are also emotionally attuned to nature's beauty.
A translation of the Kabbalah for the layperson includes a compact presentation of each primary text and features a practical analysis and vital historical information that offers insight into the various aspects of Jewish mysticism.
The relation between brain activity and the immune system was evaluated by assessing immune responses in 20 healthy women who manifested extreme differences in the asymmetry of frontal cortex activation. One group showed extreme and stable left frontal activation; the other group showed extreme and stable right frontal activation. As predicted, women with extreme right frontal activation had significantly lower levels of natural killer cell activity (at effector:target cell ratios of 33:1 and 11:1) than did left frontally activated individuals. This difference did not extend to two other immune measures, lymphocyte proliferation and T-cell subsets. However, higher immunoglobulin levels of the M class were observed in the right frontal group. In this study, the immune patterns could not be accounted for by plasma cortisol levels, anxiety- and depression-related symptomatology, or recent health histories. These findings support the hypothesis that there is a specific association between frontal brain asymmetry and certain immune responses.
Reliable individual differences in electrophysiological measures of prefrontal activation asymmetry exist and predict dispositional mood and other psychological and biological indices of affective style. Subjects with greater relative right-sided activation report more dispositional negative affect and react with greater intensity to negative emotional challenges than their left-activated counterparts. We previously established that such individual differences in measures of prefrontal activation asymmetry were related to basal NK function, with left-activated subjects exhibiting higher levels of NK function than right-activated subjects. The present study was designed to replicate and extend these earlier findings. Subjects were tested in five experimental sessions over the course of 1 year. During the first two sessions, baseline measures of brain electrical activity were obtained to derive indices of asymmetric activation. During sessions 3 and 4, blood samples were taken during a nonstressful period in the semester and then 24 h prior to the subjects' most important final examination. During session 5, subjects were presented with positive and negative film clips 30 min in duration. Blood samples were obtained before and after the film clips. Subjects with greater relative right-sided activation at baseline showed lower levels of basal NK function. They also showed a greater decrease in NK function during the final exam period compared to the baseline period. Subjects with greater relative left-sided activation showed a larger increase in NK function from before to after the positive film clip. These findings indicate that individual differences in electrophysiological measures of asymmetric prefrontal activation account for a significant portion of variance in both basal levels of, and change in NK function.
This position paper advocates for early childhood teachers and parents to regularly use of mindfulness practices themselves and with very young children. An understanding of 'mindfulness' is important because it can provide ways to support children during their sensitive years and sow seeds of kindness, tolerance and peace in our fast paced, competitive, consumerist culture. In addition, in times of trauma, mindfulness techniques offer teachers and parents ways to calm themselves and the children close to them. The value of using mindfulness techniques with children and for demonstrating mindfulness as adults is well supported by research (McCown, Reibel and Micozzi, 2010; Saltzman and Goldin, 2008).
Past studies have documented interpersonal benefits of natural environments. Across four studies, we tested the hypothesis that exposure to more beautiful nature, relative to less beautiful nature, increases prosocial behavior. Study 1 yielded correlational evidence indicating that participants prone to perceiving natural beauty reported greater prosocial tendencies, as measured by agreeableness, perspective taking, and empathy. In Studies 2 and 3, exposure to more beautiful images of nature (versus less beautiful images of nature) led participants to be more generous and trusting. In Study 4, exposure to more beautiful (versus less beautiful) plants in the laboratory room led participants to exhibit increased helping behavior. Across studies, we provide evidence that positive emotions and tendencies to perceive natural beauty mediate and moderate the association between beauty and prosociality. The current studies extend past research by demonstrating the unique prosocial benefits of beautiful nature.
Test-retest reliability of resting regional cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (rCMR) was examined in selected subcortical structures: the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and anterior caudate nucleus. Findings from previous studies examining reliability of rCMR suggest that rCMR in small subcortical structures may be more variable than in larger cortical regions. We chose to study these subcortical regions because of their particular interest to our laboratory in its investigations of the neurocircuitry of emotion and depression. Twelve normal subjects (seven female, mean age = 32.42 years, range 21-48 years) underwent two FDG-PET scans separated by approximately 6 months (mean = 25 weeks, range 17-35 weeks). A region-of-interest approach with PET-MRI coregistration was used for analysis of rCMR reliability. Good test-retest reliability was found in the left amygdala, right and left hippocampus, right and left thalamus, and right and left anterior caudate nucleus. However, rCMR in the right amygdala did not show good test-retest reliability. The implications of these data and their import for studies that include a repeat-test design are considered.