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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.

Buddhist meditation practices have become a topic of widespread interest in both science and medicine. Traditional Buddhist formulations describe meditation as a state of relaxed alertness that must guard against both excessive hyperarousal (restlessness) and excessive hypoarousal (drowsiness, sleep). Modern applications of meditation have emphasized the hypoarousing and relaxing effects without as much emphasis on the arousing or alertness-promoting effects. In an attempt to counterbalance the plethora of data demonstrating the relaxing and hypoarousing effects of Buddhist meditation, this interdisciplinary review aims to provide evidence of meditation's arousing or wake-promoting effects by drawing both from Buddhist textual sources and from scientific studies, including subjective, behavioral, and neuroimaging studies during wakefulness, meditation, and sleep. Factors that may influence whether meditation increases or decreases arousal are discussed, with particular emphasis on dose, expertise, and contemplative trajectory. The course of meditative progress suggests a nonlinear multiphasic trajectory, such that early phases that are more effortful may produce more fatigue and sleep propensity, while later stages produce greater wakefulness as a result of neuroplastic changes and more efficient processing.
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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.

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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The effects of Zen breath meditation were compared with those of relaxation on college adjustment. 75 undergraduates (aged 17–40 yrs) were divided into 3 groups using randomized matching on the basis of initial anxiety scores of the College Adjustment Scales. Ss also completed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. The 3 groups included, meditation, relaxation, and control. Training for the meditation and relaxation groups took place during a 1-hr instructional session with written instructions being distributed. After 6 wks anxiety and depression scored significantly decreased for the meditation and relaxation groups. Interpersonal problem scores also significantly decreased for the meditation group.

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.

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…

Studies on the effects of mindfulness interventions on mental health and behavioral problems in children show promising results, but are primarily conducted with selected samples of children. The few studies investigating school-based interventions used self-selected samples, provided training outside of the classroom, and did not report longer-term effects. The immediate and longer-term effects of a class-based mindfulness intervention for elementary school children were investigated as a primary prevention program (MindfulKids) to reduce stress and stress-related mental health and behavioral problems. Children (8–12 years) from three elementary schools participated. Classes were randomized to an immediate-intervention group (N = 95) or a waitlist-control group (N = 104), which received the intervention after a waitlist period. Twelve 30-min sessions were delivered in 6 weeks. At baseline, pretest, posttest, and follow-up, variables indicative of stress and metal well-being were assessed with children, variables indicative of mental health problems were assessed with parents, and teachers reported on class climate. Multilevel analysis revealed that there were no significant changes from baseline to pretest. Some primary prevention effects on stress and well-being were found directly after training and some became more apparent at follow-up. Effects on mental health problems also became apparent at follow-up. MindfulKids seems to have a primary preventive effect on stress, well-being, and behavior in schoolchildren, as reported by children and parents. Exploratory analysis revealed that children who ruminate more are affected differently by the intervention than children who ruminate less. It is concluded that mindfulness training can be incorporated in elementary schools at the class level, letting all children benefit from the intervention.

Objective To examine the effect of parental training on disturbed behavior of early childhood cases presented to the pediatricians. Methods The patients who reported in pediatric OPD of the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dehradun, with complaints of low learning, poor memory, vertigo, speech problem, stress, headache, depression, adjustment problems, aggression, and hostile behavior were included in the study. Children aged 3 through 6 (N = 60), were screened through PBQ (Preschool Behavior Questionnaire), DST (developmental screening Test), and Vineland Social Maturity Scale (VSMS). Children included in the study had an average range of developmental quotient 85–90 (mean DQ = 87.5). Range of social quotient was 40–45 (mean SQ = 42.5). Twenty four fortnightly sessions of ‘parental training’ using the model of ‘Mindful Parenting’ were conducted. Single group t test method was applied in order to see the difference in mean of pre and post assessment of PBQ. Results After concluding parental training (after 24 sessions), mean difference of total disturbed behavior was found to be significant (t value: 5.31 > .05) Similarly, the mean difference of hostile/aggressive behavior (t value: 10.2 > .05), anxious behavior (t value: 18.5 > .05), and hyperactive/distractible behavior (t value: 1.97 > .05) were found to be significant. Conclusions These results provide some evidence in favor of parental training in managing behavioral problems occurring in early childhood. Instead of putting the child immediately on medication, parents can get training and prepare a plan to understand and make a change in child’s behavior leading to better health.

OBJECTIVES: Previously it was shown that a brief yoga-based lifestyle intervention was efficacious in reducing oxidative stress and risk of chronic diseases even in a short duration. The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy of this intervention in reducing stress and inflammation in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. DESIGN: This study reports preliminary results from a nonrandomized prospective ongoing study with pre-post design. SETTING/LOCATION: The study was conducted at the Integral Health Clinic, an outpatient facility conducting these yoga-based lifestyle intervention programs for prevention and management of chronic diseases. SUBJECTS: Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases and overweight/obese subjects were included while physically challenged, and those on other interventions were excluded from the study. INTERVENTION: A pretested intervention program included asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), stress management, group discussions, lectures, and individualized advice. OUTCOME MEASURES: There was a reduction in stress (plasma cortisol and β-endorphin) and inflammation (interleukin [IL]-6 and tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-α) at day 0 versus day 10. RESULTS: Eighty-six (86) patients (44 female, 42 male, 40.07 ± 13.91 years) attended this program. Overall, the mean level of cortisol decreased from baseline to day 10 (149.95 ± 46.07, 129.07 ± 33.30 ng/mL; p=0.001) while β-endorphins increased from baseline to day 10 (3.53 ± 0.88, 4.06 ± 0.79 ng/mL; p=0.024). Also, there was reduction from baseline to day 10 in mean levels of IL-6 (2.16 ± 0.42, 1.94 ± 0.10 pg/mL, p=0.036) and TNF-α (2.85 ± 0.59, 1.95 ± 0.32 pg/mL, p=0.002). CONCLUSIONS: This brief yoga-based lifestyle intervention reduced the markers of stress and inflammation as early as 10 days in patients with chronic diseases; however, complete results of this study will confirm whether this program has utility as complementary and alternative therapy.
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"Readers will learn new methods for teaching relaxation and quiet inner focus, movement meditations, and exercises that develop emotional, spiritual and intellectual awareness and self-esteem. These exercises aim to help students gain new-found creativity, a language to articulate their feelings, and skills for attaining a calm and balanced outlook."--BOOK JACKET.

[T]he leadership forum brought together 20 leaders in K-12 education... to explore the avenues by which contemplative wisdom can impact educational reform at three levels: (1) as a catalyst for change in educational policy; (2) as a means to improving educational environments by enhancing teachers’ ability to provide social, emotional, and instructional support, and (3) as both a curricular subject and a method of enhancing curricular content...

Abstract The authors examined the effect of a 6-week mind/body intervention on college students' psychological distress, anxiety, and perception of stress. One hundred twenty-eight students were randomly assigned to an experimental group (n = 63) or a waitlist control group (n = 65). The experimental group received 6 90-minute group-training sessions in the relaxation response and cognitive behavioral skills. The Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Perceived Stress Scale were used to assess the students' psychological state before and after the intervention. Ninety students (70% of the initial sample) completed the postassessment measure. Significantly greater reductions in psychological distress, state anxiety, and perceived stress were found in the experimental group. This brief mind/body training may be useful as a preventive intervention for college students, according to the authors, who called for further research to determine whether the observed treatment effect can be sustained over a longer period of time.

The development of social emotions such as compassion is crucial for successful social interactions as well as for the maintenance of mental and physical health, especially when confronted with distressing life events. Yet, the neural mechanisms supporting the training of these emotions are poorly understood. To study affective plasticity in healthy adults, we measured functional neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others in a newly developed task (Socio-affective Video Task). Participants’ initial empathic responses to the task were accompanied by negative affect and activations in the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex—a core neural network underlying empathy for pain. Whereas participants reacted with negative affect before training, compassion training increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress. On the neural level, we observed that, compared with a memory control group, compassion training elicited activity in a neural network including the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area—brain regions previously associated with positive affect and affiliation. Taken together, these findings suggest that the deliberate cultivation of compassion offers a new coping strategy that fosters positive affect even when confronted with the distress of others.
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Used psychometric concepts developed by the 2nd author to study the quality of changes in creative functioning resulting from training in meditation. 24 undergraduates who experienced meditation training and 10 undergraduates who experienced training in relaxation were administered the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking before and after training. Meditators attained statistically significant gains in heightened consciousness of problems, perceived change, invention, sensory experience, expression of emotion/feeling, synthesis, unusual visualization, internal visualization, humor, and fantasy. Relaxation training Ss manifested significant drops in verbal fluency, verbal originality, figural fluency, and figural originality and significant gains in sensory experience, synthesis, and unusual visualization. When the linear models procedure was used to compare the changes, it was found that the changes of the meditation group exceeded those of the relaxation group on perceived change resulting from new conditions, expression of emotion, internal visualization and fantasy. (10 ref)

Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) is a professional development program designed to reduce stress and improve teachers' performance. Two pilot studies examined program feasibility and attractiveness and preliminary evidence of efficacy. Study 1 involved educators from a high-poverty urban setting (n = 31). Study 2 involved student teachers and 10 of their mentors working in a suburban/semi-rural setting (n = 43) (treatment and control groups). While urban educators showed significant pre-post improvements in mindfulness and time urgency, the other sample did not, suggesting that CARE may be more efficacious in supporting teachers working in high-risk settings. (Contains 2 tables, 1 figure and 1 footnote.)

High school students' self-esteem and locus of control were evaluated before, during, and after exposure to either a health curriculum based on elicitation of the relaxation-response with follow-up or a control health curriculum followed by the relaxation-response. The experimental group significantly increased self-esteem and internal locus of control. (SM)
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Musically proficient and non-proficient right-handed subjects were requested to list in a pre-experimental questionnaire three familiar songs, whose words and melody were well known. They were then instructed in two separate experiments, to whistle the melody of a song, talk the lyrics to a song, or sing a song each for 3 1-min trials performed with eyes closed. EEG was recorded from the left and right occipital areas (O1 and O2) in Experiment I and from the left and right parietal areas (P3 and P4) in Experiment II, and filtered for 8–13 Hz activity on-line. Comparable results were obtained in both experiments and indicated that non-musically trained subjects show significantly greater relative right hemisphere activation while whistling the melody of a song vs talking the lyrics to a song. Musically trained subjects show no differences in EEG asymmetry between these tasks. In addition, there were no group differences in asymmetry during the talking and singing conditions. These data are consistent with recent evidence suggesting that musical training is associated with the adoption of an analytic and sequential processing mode toward melodic information, and suggest that long term training in complex cognitive skills has functional neural concomitants.
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