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This article reviews the author's program of research on the neural substrates of emotion and affective style and their behavioral and peripheral biological correlates. Two core dimensions along which affect is organized are approach and withdrawal. Some of the key circuitry underlying approach and withdrawal components of emotion is reviewed with an emphasis on the role played by different sectors of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala. Affective style refers to individual differences in valence-specific features of emotional reactivity and regulation. The different parameters of affective style can be objectively measured using specific laboratory probes. Relations between individual differences in prefrontal and amygdala function and specific components of affective style are illustrated. The final section of the article concludes with a brief discussion of plasticity in the central circuitry of emotion and the possibility that this circuitry can be shaped by training experiences that might potentially promote a more resilient, positive affective style. The implications of this body of work for a broader conception of psychophysiology and for training the next generation of psychophysiologists are considered in the conclusion.
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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.

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.

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.

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.
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Neuroscientists should help to develop compelling video games that boost brain function and improve well-being, say Daphne Bavelier and Richard J. Davidson.
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We propose that cognition is more than a collection of independent processes operating in a modular cognitive system. Instead, we propose that cognition emerges from dependencies between all of the basic systems in the brain, including goal management, perception, action, memory, reward, affect, and learning. Furthermore, human cognition reflects its social evolution and context, as well as contributions from a developmental process. After presenting these themes, we illustrate their application to the process of anticipation. Specifically, we propose that anticipations occur extensively across domains (i.e., goal management, perception, action, reward, affect, and learning) in coordinated manners. We also propose that anticipation is central to situated action and to social interaction, and that many of its key features reflect the process of development.
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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.
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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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Depression is a disorder of the representation and regulation of mood and emotion. The circuitry underlying the representation and regulation of normal emotion and mood is reviewed, including studies at the animal level, human lesion studies, and human brain imaging studies. This corpus of data is used to construct a model of the ways in which affect can become disordered in depression. Research on the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, hippocampus, and amygdala is reviewed and abnormalities in the structure and function of these different regions in depression is considered. The review concludes with proposals for the specific types of processing abnormalities that result from dysfunctions in different parts of this circuitry and offers suggestions for the major themes upon which future research in this area should be focused.
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Mindfulness meditation practices (MMPs) are a subgroup of meditation practices which are receiving growing attention. The present paper reviews current evidence about the effects of MMPs on objective measures of cognitive functions. Five databases were searched. Twenty three studies providing measures of attention, memory, executive functions and further miscellaneous measures of cognition were included. Fifteen were controlled or randomized controlled studies and 8 were case–control studies. Overall, reviewed studies suggested that early phases of mindfulness training, which are more concerned with the development of focused attention, could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention whereas the following phases, which are characterized by an open monitoring of internal and external stimuli, could be mainly associated with improved unfocused sustained attention abilities. Additionally, MMPs could enhance working memory capacity and some executive functions. However, many of the included studies show methodological limitations and negative results have been reported as well, plausibly reflecting differences in study design, study duration and patients' populations. Accordingly, even though findings here reviewed provided preliminary evidence suggesting that MMPs could enhance cognitive functions, available evidence should be considered with caution and further high quality studies investigating more standardized mindfulness meditation programs are needed.

How do we, as humans, take in the feelings and thoughts of other people? Theory-of-Mind (ToM) and Embodied Simulation (ES) approaches hypothesize divergent neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying intersubjectivity. ToM investigators assert that humans take in the belief states and intentions of another person by holding "a theory of mind" that cognitively posits the other person's mental contents, with some experiments identifying the right temporo-parietal junction as a specific ToM brain region. ES theorists hypothesize that humans perceive the other's state of mind by simulating his/her actions, emotions, and goals in the "mirror neuron system" in the brain. A historical review suggests these understandings rely on opposing, dualist models of cognition and perception. William James's intervention on this earlier debate is informative in anticipating recent findings in low-level sensory neuroscience. Of specific interest are studies showing that intersubjectivity and low-level sensory attentional filtering are both processed in the same cortical area (the temporo-parietal junction) suggesting that the ability to entertain other minds may be related to the ability to perceive salient stimuli during attention-demanding tasks.
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Experienced Qigong meditators who regularly perform the exercises “Thinking of Nothing” and “Qigong” were studied with multichannel EEG source imaging during their meditations. The intracerebral localization of brain electric activity during the two meditation conditions was compared using sLORETA functional EEG tomography. Differences between conditions were assessed using t statistics (corrected for multiple testing) on the normalized and log-transformed current density values of the sLORETA images. In the EEG alpha-2 frequency, 125 voxels differed significantly; all were more active during “Qigong” than “Thinking of Nothing,” forming a single cluster in parietal Brodmann areas 5, 7, 31, and 40, all in the right hemisphere. In the EEG beta-1 frequency, 37 voxels differed significantly; all were more active during “Thinking of Nothing” than “Qigong,” forming a single cluster in prefrontal Brodmann areas 6, 8, and 9, all in the left hemisphere. Compared to combined initial–final no-task resting, “Qigong” showed activation in posterior areas whereas “Thinking of Nothing” showed activation in anterior areas. The stronger activity of posterior (right) parietal areas during “Qigong” and anterior (left) prefrontal areas during “Thinking of Nothing” may reflect a predominance of self-reference, attention and input-centered processing in the “Qigong” meditation, and of control-centered processing in the “Thinking of Nothing” meditation.

Neurophenomenological studies seek to utilize first-person self-report to elucidate cognitive processes related to physiological data. Grounded theory offers an approach to the qualitative analysis of self-report, whereby theoretical constructs are derived from empirical data. Here we used grounded theory methodology (GTM) to assess how the first-person experience of meditation relates to neural activity in a core region of the default mode network—the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). We analyzed first-person data consisting of meditators' accounts of their subjective experience during runs of a real time fMRI neurofeedback study of meditation, and third-person data consisting of corresponding feedback graphs of PCC activity during the same runs. We found that for meditators, the subjective experiences of “undistracted awareness” such as “concentration” and “observing sensory experience,” and “effortless doing” such as “observing sensory experience,” “not efforting,” and “contentment,” correspond with PCC deactivation. Further, the subjective experiences of “distracted awareness” such as “distraction” and “interpreting,” and “controlling” such as “efforting” and “discontentment,” correspond with PCC activation. Moreover, we derived several novel hypotheses about how specific qualities of cognitive processes during meditation relate to PCC activity, such as the difference between meditation and “trying to meditate.” These findings offer novel insights into the relationship between meditation and mind wandering or self-related thinking and neural activity in the default mode network, driven by first-person reports.
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