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Featuring accounts by practitioners living everyday lives, this introduction to Vipassana meditation provides a way for readers to learn more about its benefits. Explained is what takes place before, during, and after a ten-day silent meditation retreat. Each participant follows the same discipline: silence, a basic moral code known as the five precepts, a prescribed timetable, a vegetarian diet, and a commitment to practicing only what is taught at the retreat. This first-person account of the retreat reveals the challenges and benefits of facing reality head-on through direct observation and of learning to observe instead of reacting to thoughts, emotions, and sensations. In addition, the ways in which Vipassana meditation techniques are applied to individuals, institutions, children, prisoners, work places, and fields of science and social action are examined. Although based on the teachings of the Buddha, the practice of Vipassana as illustrated in this book has broad appeal to other religious and nonsectarian audiences.

OBJECTIVE Deficits in positive affect and their neural bases have been associated with major depression. However, whether reductions in positive affect result solely from an overall reduction in nucleus accumbens activity and fronto-striatal connectivity or the additional inability to sustain engagement of this network over time is unknown. The authors sought to determine whether treatment-induced changes in the ability to sustain nucleus accumbens activity and fronto-striatal connectivity during the regulation of positive affect are associated with gains in positive affect. METHOD Using fMRI, the authors assessed the ability to sustain activity in reward-related networks when attempting to increase positive emotion during performance of an emotion regulation paradigm in 21 depressed patients before and after 2 months of antidepressant treatment. Over the same interval, 14 healthy comparison subjects underwent scanning as well. RESULTS After 2 months of treatment, self-reported positive affect increased. The patients who demonstrated the largest increases in sustained nucleus accumbens activity over the 2 months were those who demonstrated the largest increases in positive affect. In addition, the patients who demonstrated the largest increases in sustained fronto-striatal connectivity were also those who demonstrated the largest increases in positive affect when controlling for negative affect. None of these associations were observed in healthy comparison subjects. CONCLUSIONS Treatment-induced change in the sustained engagement of fronto-striatal circuitry tracks the experience of positive emotion in daily life. Studies examining reduced positive affect in a variety of psychiatric disorders might benefit from examining the temporal dynamics of brain activity when attempting to understand changes in daily positive affect.
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Given the central role of the amygdala in fear perception and expression and its likely abnormality in affective disorders and autism, there is great demand for a technique to measure differences in neurochemistry of the human amygdala. Unfortunately, it is also a technically complex target for magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) due to a small volume, high field inhomogeneity and a shared boundary with hippocampus, which can undergo opposite changes in response to stress. We attempted to achieve reliable PRESS-localized single-voxel MRS at 3T of the isolated human amygdala by using anatomy to guide voxel size and location. We present data from 106 amygdala-MRS sessions from 58 volunteers aged 10 to 52 years, including two tests of one-week stability and a feasibility study in an adolescent sample. Our main outcomes were indices of spectral quality, repeated measurement variability (within- and between-subject standard deviations), and sensitivity to stable individual differences measured by intra-class correlation (ICC). We present metrics of amygdala-MRS reliability for n-acetyl-aspartate, creatine, choline, myo-Inositol, and glutamate+glutamine (Glx). We found that scan quality suffers an age-related difference in field homogeneity and modified our protocol to compensate. We further identified an effect of anatomical inclusion near the endorhinal sulcus, a region of high synaptic density, that contributes up to 29% of within-subject variability across 4 sessions (n=14). Remaining variability in line width but not signal-to-noise also detracts from reliability. Statistical correction for partial inclusion of these strong neurochemical gradients decreases n-acetyl-aspartate reliability from an intraclass correlation of 0.84 to 0.56 for 7-minute acquisitions. This suggests that systematic differences in anatomical inclusion can contribute greatly to apparent neurochemical concentrations and could produce false group differences in experimental studies. Precise, anatomically-based prescriptions that avoid age-related sources of inhomogeneity and use longer scan times may permit study of individual differences in neurochemistry throughout development in this late-maturing structure.
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<p>This exploratory study examined differences in normal narcissism between mindfulness meditation practitioners (n = 76), comprised of men (30%) and women (70%) between the ages of 18 and 79, and a control group (n = 36) of nonmeditators with spiritual interests, comprised of men (19%) and women (81%) between the ages of 31 and 78. Normal narcissism was defined as a concentration of psychological interest upon the representational self (i.e., ego-identity). Quantitative analysis was conducted using the Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA and Fisher's Least Significant Differences (LSD) test. The study's measures included (a) the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) measuring normal, overt narcissism and (b) the Transpersonally Oriented Narcissism Questionnaire (TONQ)--a piloted measure of normal narcissism designed to assess overt, covert, and transformative aspects of 4 core narcissistic features: (a) self-centeredness, (b) grandiosity, (c) need-for-mirroring/admiration, and (d) emptiness. Quantitative results are informed by qualitative analysis utilizing heuristic, hermeneutical, and phenomenological principles. Results indicate no differences in NPI scores among the various meditator variables: (a) years of practice, (b) amount of meditation per week, (c) duration of meditation per sitting, and (d) retreat experience or between meditators ( n = 76) and control (n = 36). Differences exist among all 4 meditator variables (a) - (d) and control group regarding (a) overall transformation of narcissism, (b) emptiness as the ultimate potential (e.g., sunnata), and (c) self-centeredness, with controls having higher means than meditators on overall narcissism-transformation and narcissistic emptiness, and lower means on self-centeredness subscales. Differences exist between 3 meditator variables and control regarding narcissistic emptiness, with controls having higher means than meditators. Differences exist between 2 meditator variables and control regarding transforming grandiosity, where controls report higher means than meditators. This exploratory research demonstrates that the transpersonal study of narcissism is possible despite the many methodological complications and numerous theoretical questions it raises.</p>

Theories of knowledge such as feature lists, semantic networks, and localist neural nets typically use a single global symbol to represent a property that occurs in multiple concepts. Thus, a global symbol represents mane across HORSE, PONY, and LION. Alternatively, perceptual theories of knowledge, as well as distributed representational systems, assume that properties take different local forms in different concepts. Thus, different local forms of mane exist for HORSE, PONY, and LION, each capturing the specific form that mane takes in its respective concept. Three experiments used the property verification task to assess whether properties are represented globally or locally (e.g., Does a PONY have mane?). If a single global form represents a property, then verifying it in any concept should increase its accessibility and speed its verification later in any other concept. Verifying mane for PONY should benefit as much from having verified mane for LION earlier as from verifying mane for HORSE. If properties are represented locally, however, verifying a property should only benefit from verifying a similar form earlier. Verifying mane for PONY should only benefit from verifying mane for HORSE, not from verifying mane for LION. Findings from three experiments strongly supported local property representation and ruled out the interpretation that object similarity was responsible (e.g., the greater overall similarity between HORSE and PONY than between LION and PONY). The findings further suggest that property representation and verification are complicated phenomena, grounded in sensory-motor simulations.
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Four U.S. sites formed a consortium to conduct a multisite study of fMRI methods. The primary purpose of this consortium was to examine the reliability and reproducibility of fMRI results. FMRI data were collected on healthy adults during performance of a spatial working memory task at four different institutions. Two sets of data from each institution were made available. First, data from two subjects were made available from each site and were processed and analyzed as a pooled data set. Second, statistical maps from five to eight subjects per site were made available. These images were aligned in stereotactic space and common regions of activation were examined to address the reproducibility of fMRI results when both image acquisition and analysis vary as a function of site. Our grouped and individual data analyses showed reliable patterns of activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex during performance of the working memory task across all four sites. This multisite study, the first of its kind using fMRI data, demonstrates highly consistent findings across sites.
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<p>The use of the concept ‘religious experience’ is exceedingly broad, encompassing a vast array of feelings, moods, perceptions, dispositions, and states of consciousness. Some prefer to focus on a distinct type of religious experience known as ‘mystical experience', typically construed as a transitory but potentially transformative state of consciousness in which a subject purports to come into immediate contact with the divine, the sacred, the holy. We will return to the issue of mystical experience below. Here I would only note that the academic literature does not clearly delineate the relationship between religious experience and mystical experience. The reluctance, and in the end the inability, to clearly stipulate the meaning of such terms will be a recurring theme in the discussion below.</p>

<p>Creator's Description: The Commentary on Enlightened Attitude (Bodhicittavivaraṇa), which is attributed to the tantric Nāgārjuna (fl. 200 CE), takes the ultimate enlightened attitude (bodhicitta) as a direct realization of emptiness, and follows a positive approach to the ultimate, like the sūtras of and commentaries on the third wheel of the doctrine (dharmacakra). Taking this as Nāgārjuna’s final position, the Commentary on Enlightened Attitude gains an important status for those who see in the third wheel of the doctrine teachings of definitive meaning. The present paper shows that ’Gos lo tsā ba gzhon nu dpal (1392-1481) and his disciple the Fourth Zhwa dmar pa Chos grags ye shes (1453-1524) follow this approach, but take positive descriptions of the ultimate in the third wheel of the doctrine as the result of a direct experience of emptiness beyond the duality of perceiving subject and perceived object. Standing in the Great Seal (Mahāmudrā) tradition of the Dwags po bka’ brgyud, an ultimate existence of mind, such that self-awareness or the perfect nature exists as an entity, is not accepted by them.</p>

Successful decision making in a social setting depends on our ability to understand the intentions, emotions and beliefs of others. The mirror system allows us to understand other people's motor actions and action intentions. ‘Empathy’ allows us to understand and share emotions and sensations with others. ‘Theory of mind’ allows us to understand more abstract concepts such as beliefs or wishes in others. In all these cases, evidence has accumulated that we use the specific neural networks engaged in processing mental states in ourselves to understand the same mental states in others. However, the magnitude of the brain activity in these shared networks is modulated by contextual appraisal of the situation or the other person. An important feature of decision making in a social setting concerns the interaction of reason and emotion. We consider four domains where such interactions occur: our sense of fairness, altruistic punishment, trust and framing effects. In these cases, social motivations and emotions compete with each other, while higher-level control processes modulate the interactions of these low-level biases.
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Our objective was to conduct the first randomized controlled trial of the efficacy of a group mindfulness program aimed at reducing and preventing depression in an adolescent school-based population. For each of 12 pairs of parallel classes with students (age range 13–20) from five schools (N = 408), one class was randomly assigned to the mindfulness condition and one class to the control condition. Students in the mindfulness group completed depression assessments (the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales) prior to and immediately following the intervention and 6 months after the intervention. Control students completed the questionnaire at the same times as those in the mindfulness group. Hierarchical linear modeling showed that the mindfulness intervention showed significantly greater reductions (and greater clinically significant change) in depression compared with the control group at the 6-month follow-up. Cohen's d was medium sized (>.30) for both the pre-to-post and pre-to-follow-up effect for depressive symptoms in the mindfulness condition. The findings suggest that school-based mindfulness programs can help to reduce and prevent depression in adolescents.
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As Buddhism spread into China, the Mahayana (Dacheng) and Hinayana (Xiaocheng) schools, as well as the kong 空 (empty) or you 有 (being) schools, each developed separately, with all sorts of competing theories emerging. While Chinese Buddhism saw a revival in modern times, Western science also gained ground all over the country, and many scholars, technologists and monks sought to interpret the meaning of kong according the achievements and method of the natural sciences. They used science to interpret the content and methods of Buddhist teachings, ontology, and outlook on life. Of the scholars who did so, Wang Jitong (王季同) and You Zhibiao (尢智表) are the most excellent.

The current study investigated the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based meditation training (MMT) intervention on attentional bias, engagement and disengagement of pain-related threat in fibromyalgia patients as compared to an age-matched control group. A well validated dot-probe task was used to explore early versus later stages of attentional processing through the use of two stimulus exposure durations (100, 500 ms) of pain-related threat words. The enduring effects of MMT were assessed 6-months after completion of MMT. Preliminary results suggest that MMT reduces avoidance of pain-related threat at early levels of processing, and facilitates disengagement from threat at later stages of processing. Furthermore, it appears that effects of MMT on early attentional threat processing do not remain stable after long-term follow-up.

Selective attention has been shown to bias sensory processing in favor of relevant stimuli and against irrelevant or distracting stimuli in perceptual tasks. Increasing evidence suggests that selective attention plays an important role during working memory maintenance, possibly by biasing sensory processing in favor of to-be-remembered items. In the current study, we investigated whether selective attention may also support working memory by biasing processing against irrelevant and potentially distracting information. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects (n = 22) performed a delayed-recognition task for faces and shoes. The delay period was filled with face or shoe distractors. Behavioral performance was impaired when distractors were congruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during working memory for faces) relative to when distractors were incongruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during shoe working memory). If attentional biasing against distractor processing is indeed functionally relevant in supporting working memory maintenance, perceptual processing of distractors is predicted to be attenuated when distractors are more behaviorally intrusive relative to when they are nonintrusive. As such, we predicted that perceptual processing of distracting faces, as measured by the face-sensitive N170 ERP component, would be reduced in the context of congruent (face) working memory relative to incongruent (shoe) working memory. The N170 elicited by distracting faces demonstrated reduced amplitude during congruent versus incongruent working memory. These results suggest that perceptual processing of distracting faces may be attenuated due to attentional biasing against sensory processing of distractors that are most behaviorally intrusive during working memory maintenance.
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<p>Human beings can be proactive and engaged or, alternatively, passive and alienated, largely as a function of the social conditions in which they develop and function. Accordingly, research guided by self-determination theory has focused on the social–contextual conditions that facilitate versus forestall the natural processes of self-motivation and healthy psychological development. Specifically, factors have been examined that enhance versus undermine intrinsic motivation, self-regulation, and well-being. The findings have led to the postulate of three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being. Also considered is the significance of these psychological needs and processes within domains such as health care, education, work, sport, religion, and psychotherapy.</p>

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