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Background Early life stress (ELS) can compromise development, with higher amounts of adversity linked to behavioral problems. To understand this linkage, a growing body of research has examined two brain regions involved with socioemotional functioning—amygdala and hippocampus. Yet empirical studies have reported increases, decreases, and no differences within human and nonhuman animal samples exposed to different forms of ELS. This divergence in findings may stem from methodological factors, nonlinear effects of ELS, or both. Methods We completed rigorous hand-tracing of the amygdala and hippocampus in three samples of children who experienced different forms of ELS (i.e., physical abuse, early neglect, or low socioeconomic status). Interviews were also conducted with children and their parents or guardians to collect data about cumulative life stress. The same data were also collected in a fourth sample of comparison children who had not experienced any of these forms of ELS. Results Smaller amygdala volumes were found for children exposed to these different forms of ELS. Smaller hippocampal volumes were also noted for children who were physically abused or from low socioeconomic status households. Smaller amygdala and hippocampal volumes were also associated with greater cumulative stress exposure and behavioral problems. Hippocampal volumes partially mediated the relationship between ELS and greater behavioral problems. Conclusions This study suggests ELS may shape the development of brain areas involved with emotion processing and regulation in similar ways. Differences in the amygdala and hippocampus may be a shared diathesis for later negative outcomes related to ELS.
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Terror management theory posits that people tend to respond defensively to reminders of death, including worldview defense, self-esteem striving, and suppression of death thoughts. Seven experiments examined whether trait mindfulness--a disposition characterized by receptive attention to present experience--reduced defensive responses to mortality salience (MS). Under MS, less mindful individuals showed higher worldview defense (Studies 1-3) and self-esteem striving (Study 5), yet more mindful individuals did not defend a constellation of values theoretically associated with mindfulness (Study 4). To explain these findings through proximal defense processes, Study 6 showed that more mindful individuals wrote about their death for a longer period of time, which partially mediated the inverse association between trait mindfulness and worldview defense. Study 7 demonstrated that trait mindfulness predicted less suppression of death thoughts immediately following MS. The discussion highlights the relevance of mindfulness to theories that emphasize the nature of conscious processing in understanding responses to threat. Keywords: mindfulness, mortality salience, self-determination theory, terror management theory DOI: 10.1037/a0019388

In keeping with cognitive appraisal models of emotion, it was hypothesized that sadness and anger would exert different influences on causal judgments. Two experiments provided initial support for this hypothesis. Sad Ss perceived situationally caused events as more likely (Experiment 1) and situational forces more responsible for an ambiguous event (Experiment 2) than angry Ss, who, in contrast, perceived events caused by humans as more likely and other people as more responsible. Experiments 3, 4, and 5 showed that the experience of these emotions, rather than their cognitive constituents, mediates these effects. The nonemotional exposure to situational or human agency information did not influence causal judgments (Experiment 3), whereas the induction of sadness and anger without explicit agency information did (Experiments 4 and 5). Discussion is focused on the influence of emotion on social judgment.
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The brain and the cardiovascular system influence each other during the processing of emotion. The study of the interactions of these systems during emotion regulation has been limited in human functional neuroimaging, despite its potential importance for physical health. We have previously reported that mental expertise in cultivation of compassion alters the activation of circuits linked with empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli. Guided by the finding that heart rate increases more during blocks of compassion meditation than neutral states, especially for experts, we examined the interaction between state (compassion vs. neutral) and group (novice, expert) on the relation between heart rate and BOLD signal during presentation of emotional sounds presented during each state. Our findings revealed that BOLD signal in the right middle insula showed a significant association with heart rate (HR) across state and group. This association was stronger in the left middle/posterior insula when experts were compared to novices. The positive coupling of HR and BOLD was higher within the compassion state than within the neutral state in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex for both groups, underlining the role of this region in the modulation of bodily arousal states. This state effect was stronger for experts than novices in somatosensory cortices and the right inferior parietal lobule (group by state interaction). These data confirm that compassion enhances the emotional and somatosensory brain representations of others' emotions, and that this effect is modulated by expertise. Future studies are needed to further investigate the impact of compassion training on these circuits.
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Buddhist meditation practice is perceived as non-relational. Yet a serious meditator develops an intimacy with herself that is an asset to being in a healthy relationship. In this essay, using composite profiles of patients, I pursue my interest in relationships and family life as a path to mental health and a home to enlightened experience. The intimacy of a relationship with oneself, with another and within family provides a container that may enable us to let go of our fixed sense of self.

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.

Buddhism has made its way into American popular culture, particularly within the arena of death and dying. The growing influence of Buddhism on the American way of dying has been fostered through its connection with the American hospice movement. This paper describes the developing contact between Buddhism and hospice and documents the efforts of several prominent Buddhist organizations to revolutionize American death practices. The Buddhist approach to death has captured the interest of an American public attracted to its nonsectarian language of spirituality and pragmatic techniques for dealing with death.

(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.

This study reviews literature concerning any effects meditation may have upon the psychological health and practice of psychotherapists. A number of anecdotal accounts were explored in order to extract key claims made for meditation. These claims were found to include that meditation promotes attentive ability, a calm psychophysiological state, heightened awareness, and a reflexive self (an objective, observant sub-personality). It was suggested that these effects were personally therapeutic, and that this could facilitate therapists' practice. Of the experimental studies reviewed, most found that meditation had significant positive effects upon various measures of psychophysiological health. These included increases in measures of self-efficacy and attentional absorption, and decreases in indicators of anxiety, stress, and depression. However, many experimental studies were methodologically flawed. These problems were often related to characteristics of meditation that render it problematic to investigate. For example, it may take at least one year of daily practice to bring about effects, and researchers have found it difficult to complete experiments where randomly assigned participants all adhere to such a demanding regimen. In addition, current quantitative research techniques may not be sophisticated enough to allow the effects of meditation to be accurately gauged. It is suggested that qualitative techniques could be more successful in exploring the effects of meditation.

We evaluated the efficacy of a mindful parenting program for changing parents’ mindfulness, child management practices, and relationships with their early adolescent youth and tested whether changes in parents’ mindfulness mediated changes in other domains. We conducted a pilot randomized trial with 65 families and tested an adapted version of the Strengthening Families Program: For Parent and Youth 10–14 that infused mindfulness principles and practices against the original program and a delayed intervention control group. Results of pre-post analyses of mother and youth-report data showed that the mindful parenting program generally demonstrated comparable effects to the original program on measures of child management practices and stronger effects on measures of mindful parenting and parent–youth relationship qualities. Moreover, mediation analyses indicated that the mindful parenting program operated indirectly on the quality of parent–youth relationships through changes in mindful parenting. Overall, the findings suggest that infusing mindful parenting activities into existing empirically validated parenting programs can enhance their effects on family risk and protection during the transition to adolescence.

Previous research indicates that lower-class individuals experience elevated negative emotions as compared with their upper-class counterparts. We examine how the environments of lower-class individuals can also promote greater compassionate responding-that is, concern for the suffering or well-being of others. In the present research, we investigate class-based differences in dispositional compassion and its activation in situations wherein others are suffering. Across studies, relative to their upper-class counterparts, lower-class individuals reported elevated dispositional compassion (Study 1), as well as greater self-reported compassion during a compassion-inducing video (Study 2) and for another person during a social interaction (Study 3). Lower-class individuals also exhibited heart rate deceleration-a physiological response associated with orienting to the social environment and engaging with others-during the compassion-inducing video (Study 2). We discuss a potential mechanism of class-based influences on compassion, whereby lower-class individuals' are more attuned to others' distress, relative to their upper-class counterparts.
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Chaotic conditions are a prevalent and threatening feature of social life. Five studies examined whether social class underlies divergent responses to perceptions of chaos in one's social environments and outcomes. The authors hypothesized that when coping with perceptions of chaos, lower class individuals tend to prioritize community, relative to upper class individuals, who instead tend to prioritize material wealth. Consistent with these predictions, when personally confronting chaos, lower class individuals were more communally oriented (Study 1), more connected with their community (Study 2), and more likely to volunteer for a community-building project (Study 3), compared to upper class individuals. In contrast, perceptions of chaos caused upper class individuals to express greater reliance on wealth (Study 4) and prefer financial gain over membership in a close-knit community (Study 5), relative to lower class individuals. These findings suggest that social class shapes how people respond to perceptions of chaos and cope with its threatening consequences.
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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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Compared to the general population, youth in foster care experience multiple psychosocial difficulties due to exceptionally high rates of maltreatment. Many youth in care receive psychological and/or psychotropic treatment but not all require or are willing to accept that level of intervention. For many, a “mental health” approach feels pathologizing. Nevertheless, these youth have suffered maltreatment and interventions to improve their ability to cope with past trauma and their often uncertain present are clearly needed. Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) provides an alternative perspective on suffering and can be framed as a wellness intervention that is appropriate for all humans. The present study examined whether a 6-week CBCT intervention would improve psychosocial functioning among adolescents in foster care. Seventy adolescents were randomized to CBCT (twice weekly) or a wait-list condition. Youth were assessed at baseline and after 6 weeks. Groups did not differ on measures of psychosocial functioning following training; however practice frequency was associated with increased hopefulness and a trend for a decrease in generalized anxiety. Qualitative results indicated that participants found CBCT useful for dealing with daily life stressors. Adolescents in care were willing to engage in CBCT. The majority reported CBCT was very helpful and almost all reported they would recommend CBCT to a friend. Participants reported specific instances of using CBCT strategies to regulate emotion, manage stress, or to respond more compassionately towards others. Standardized self-report measures were not sensitive to qualitative reports of improved functioning, suggesting the need for measures more sensitive to the positive changes noted or longer training periods to demonstrate effects. Practical issues surrounding implementation of such programs in high-risk youth populations are identified. Recommendations are provided for further development.
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