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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.

On the basis of a review of the extant literature describing emotion-cognition interactions, the authors propose 4 methodological desiderata for studying how task-irrelevant affect modulates cognition and present data from an experiment satisfying them. Consistent with accounts of the hemispheric asymmetries characterizing withdrawal-related negative affect and visuospatial working memory (WM) in prefrontal and parietal cortices, threat-induced anxiety selectively disrupted accuracy of spatial but not verbal WM performance. Furthermore, individual differences in physiological measures of anxiety statistically mediated the degree of disruption. A second experiment revealed that individuals characterized by high levels of behavioral inhibition exhibited more intense anxiety and relatively worse spatial WM performance in the absence of threat, solidifying the authors' inference that anxiety causally mediates disruption. These observations suggest a revision of extant models of how anxiety sculpts cognition and underscore the utility of the desiderata.
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Context  Primary care physicians report high levels of distress, which is linked to burnout, attrition, and poorer quality of care. Programs to reduce burnout before it results in impairment are rare; data on these programs are scarce.Objective  To determine whether an intensive educational program in mindfulness, communication, and self-awareness is associated with improvement in primary care physicians' well-being, psychological distress, burnout, and capacity for relating to patients.Design, Setting, and Participants  Before-and-after study of 70 primary care physicians in Rochester, New York, in a continuing medical education (CME) course in 2007-2008. The course included mindfulness meditation, self-awareness exercises, narratives about meaningful clinical experiences, appreciative interviews, didactic material, and discussion. An 8-week intensive phase (2.5 h/wk, 7-hour retreat) was followed by a 10-month maintenance phase (2.5 h/mo).Main Outcome Measures  Mindfulness (2 subscales), burnout (3 subscales), empathy (3 subscales), psychosocial orientation, personality (5 factors), and mood (6 subscales) measured at baseline and at 2, 12, and 15 months.Results  Over the course of the program and follow-up, participants demonstrated improvements in mindfulness (raw score, 45.2 to 54.1; raw score change [Δ], 8.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.0 to 10.8); burnout (emotional exhaustion, 26.8 to 20.0; Δ = −6.8; 95% CI, −4.8 to −8.8; depersonalization, 8.4 to 5.9; Δ = −2.5; 95% CI, −1.4 to −3.6; and personal accomplishment, 40.2 to 42.6; Δ = 2.4; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.6); empathy (116.6 to 121.2; Δ = 4.6; 95% CI, 2.2 to 7.0); physician belief scale (76.7 to 72.6; Δ = −4.1; 95% CI, −1.8 to −6.4); total mood disturbance (33.2 to 16.1; Δ = −17.1; 95% CI, −11 to −23.2), and personality (conscientiousness, 6.5 to 6.8; Δ = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1 to 5 and emotional stability, 6.1 to 6.6; Δ = 0.5; 95% CI, 0.3 to 0.7). Improvements in mindfulness were correlated with improvements in total mood disturbance (r = −0.39, P < .001), perspective taking subscale of physician empathy (r = 0.31, P < .001), burnout (emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment subscales, r = −0.32 and 0.33, respectively; P < .001), and personality factors (conscientiousness and emotional stability, r = 0.29 and 0.25, respectively; P < .001).Conclusions  Participation in a mindful communication program was associated with short-term and sustained improvements in well-being and attitudes associated with patient-centered care. Because before-and-after designs limit inferences about intervention effects, these findings warrant randomized trials involving a variety of practicing physicians.

Publisher's description: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art documents the growing presence of Buddhist perspectives in contemporary culture. This shift began in the nineteenth century and is now pervasive in many aspects of everyday experience. In the arts especially, the increasing importance of process over product has promoted a profound change in the relationship between artist and audience. But while artists have been among the most perceptive interpreters of Buddhism in the West, art historians and critics have been slow to develop the intellectual tools to analyze the impact of Buddhist concepts. This timely, multi-faceted volume explores the relationships between Buddhist practice and the contemporary arts in lively essays by writers from a range of disciplines and in revealing interviews with some of the most influential artists of our time. Elucidating the common ground between the creative mind, the perceiving mind, and the meditative mind, the contributors tackle essential questions about the relationship of art and life. Among the writers are curators, art critics, educators, and Buddhist commentators in psychology, literature, and cognitive science. They consider the many Western artists today who recognize the Buddhist notion of emptiness, achieved through focused meditation, as a place of great creative potential for the making and experiencing of art. The artists featured in the interviews, all internationally recognized, include Maya Lin, Bill Viola, and Ann Hamilton. Extending earlier twentieth-century aesthetic interests in blurring the boundaries of art and life, the artists view art as a way of life, a daily practice, in ways parallel to that of the Buddhist practitioner. Their works, woven throughout the book, richly convey how Buddhism has been both a source for and a lens through which we now perceive art.

(RNS) The mindfulness movement has seeped into Silicon Valley, Capitol Hill, and even the United States Military Academy at West Point. Next stop: the voting booth. By Daniel Burke.

Environmentalists have been criticizing the ethics of business people concerning the natural environment. Citing Thomas Berry as an example, this paper attempts to bring his three abstract values (presence, subjectivity, and communion) closer to the understanding of the average business person through meditation. The introduction describes business ethics in terms of relationships to the individual, or the ethical ‘I’ to the natural environment, or the ethical ‘You’ and to interpersonal relationships, or the ethical ‘We.’ Meditation is also defined, according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1986), as a meditative experience together with a period of reflection and small-group discussion. More specifically, meditation takes on three forms. Part one describes nondiscursive meditation in the context of what Berry means by presence. The problem addressed here is how to meet and cultivate the ethical ‘I.’ Part two will deal with semidiscursive meditation in the context of what Berry means by subjectivity, or the ethical ‘I’ in relation to the earth. The earth then becomes the ethical ‘You.’ Part three will deal with Berry's definition of communion, or the ethical ‘We.’ The practice of discursive meditation gradually leads to what Thomas Berry calls a renewed ‘visionary experience.’ The article concludes with a redefinition of business ethics in terms of our relationships to ourselves, as human persons, to the earth as our living environment, and to each other as members of the human community. The redefinition of our relationships through meditation is ‘visionary,’ or a new ‘paradigm,’ that, hopefully, will lead to the renewed ethical practice that other environmentalists are also advocating, for example, Arnold Berleant.

Business Ethics through philosophy includes threeelements: ethical thought, meaning meditation; ethicaldefinition, referring to philosophical readings;ethical values, in reference to case work in practicalethics. The purpose of this article is to show how businessethics can be conceived as an ethical vision,nourished and integrated around a philosophicalviewpoint.

<p>Many powerful human emotional thoughts are generated in the absence of a precipitating event in the environment. Here, we tested whether we can decode the valence of internally driven, self-generated thoughts during task-free rest based on neural similarities with task-related affective mental states. We acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data while participants generated positive and negative thoughts as part of an attribution task (Session A) and while they reported the occurrence of comparable mental states during task-free rest periods (Session B). With the use of multivariate pattern analyses (MVPA), we identified response patterns in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) that encode the affective content of thoughts that are generated in response to an external experimental cue. Importantly, these task driven response patterns reliably predicted the occurrence of affective thoughts generated during unconstrained rest periods recorded one week apart. This demonstrates that at least certain elements of task-cued and task-free affective experiences rely on a common neural code. Furthermore, our findings reveal the role that the mOFC plays in determining the affective tone of unconstrained thoughts. More generally, our results suggest that MVPA is an important methodological tool for attempts to understand unguided subject driven mental states such as mind-wandering and daydreaming based on neural similarities with task-based experiences.</p>
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Certain highly emotional experiences have the potential to produce long-lasting and meaningful changes in personality. Two such experiences are spiritual transformations and experiences of profound beauty. However, little is known about the cognitive appraisals or narrative elements involved in such experiences, how they are similar, and how they differ. In a study of emotion-related narratives, these experiences were found to share many features but also differ in their valence. Experiences of profound beauty are almost always positive, but spiritual transformations are both positive and negative. Moreover, spiritual transformations seem to produce long-lasting change, but experiences of profound beauty, although evocative, do not seem to produce long-lasting change. An emotion approach helps to elucidate two understudied but important emotional experiences.
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