Meditation Brain

March 4, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

One of the most valuable tools we all have at our disposal is perspective. But this vision needs to fine tuned in order to support our efforts rather than sabotage them. We’ve all heard variations of the maxim – “Obtaining anything of value requires some effort”. That’s great as far as it goes. However, there’s more to the following equation: good values + hard work = a rewarding life.

Sometimes one must expend significant effort up front only to collect a deferred reward as a consequence. A few of the most common examples when discussing natural health have to do with dietary changes and exercise. If you make the conscious decision to prepare more healthful meals at home rather than eat out, it’ll certainly require some energy to make that shift. However, the benefits you’ll likely reap in terms of overall energy and well-being should make the added time spent cooking seem like a bargain. The same goes for exercise. No one will argue that it’s easy to wake up earlier in the morning to go for a walk or to stop by the gym after a long day at work. But the improvements in your body image, mental/physical health and stamina are usually enough to keep you on the right path. The key is to understand how the equation works and realize that such an investment generally takes some time to yield dividends. This is a matter of perspective.

Recent literature by scientists from four different countries – India, Italy, Japan and the United States – agrees that “Meditation practice in the medical setting is proving to be an excellent adjunctive therapy for many illnesses and an essential and primary means of maintaining holistic health and wellness”. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison go on to state that, “Rather than being a fringe or marginal concept, meditation is now widely known and accepted as a beneficial mind-body practice by the general public and scientific community”. My own examination of the most recent studies on meditation support this point of view. (1,2)

Meditation Supports Cognitive Function - An intriguing eight week trial involving 15 patients with “memory problems, ranging in age from 52 to 77 years” was recently completed. The study evaluated the effects of meditation on blood flow to the brain and cognitive performance. The particular type of meditation employed in this study is known as Kirtan Kriya (KK), “a 12 minute practice from the Kundalini yoga tradition” that involves “repetitive finger movements” or mudras and singing a mantra (Saa Taa Naa Maa). Cognitive tests and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) were applied prior to the meditative training and practice, and again at the completion of the 8 week intervention. Several findings were evidenced in those engaging in KK as compared to a control group which “was instructed to listen to Mozart violin concertos each day for approximately 12 minutes”. (3,4,5)

  • Increased blood flow was detected in key regions of the brain that are affected in cases of dementia – the frontal lobe and right superior parietal lobe.
  • An improvement in cognitive functioning was noted based on a neuropsychological evaluation that tested verbal fluency and cognitive tests that assessed attention and logical memory.
  • The participants in the meditation intervention experienced the practice as “enjoyable and beneficial and perceived their cognitive function to be improved”.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, commented that, “It would be extremely useful to have a cost-effective, non-pharmacological approach to slowing memory loss that could bolster the effect of medications without fear of side effects or drug-drug interactions”. Dr. Newberg added that, “While further study into the impact of Kirtan Kriya is required, the pilot study demonstrates that this meditation could be a very important tool in improving cognition in people with memory loss.”

Meditation Supports Mental Health - High quality health care requires optimal performance by the physicians and staff providing care. Doctors and nurses who feel anxious or who are chronically “stressed out” can’t possibly perform to their finest ability. Introducing meditation into a medical practice may be part of the solution to this prevalent issue. A recent study involved 38 primary care physicians who took part in a “Teaching Aptitude Course”. Half of the study group also participated in mindfulness meditation training and practice. The remainder of the physicians did not take part in any mind-body practice and were used a comparison group. Three psychological tests, The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), The Strain Questionnaire and The State-Trait Anxiety Questionnaire, were administered to all of the doctors at the start and completion of the teaching course. A “comparative statistical analysis” revealed that the participants who practiced the mindfulness meditation exhibited significant reductions in anxiety and stress when compared to the control group. (6)

Meditation Improves Pain Management - Regular meditators may be desensitizing themselves to pain. So says new research in the February edition of the journal Emotion. Meditation seems to accomplish this is by “thickening the brain” or, more specifically, portions of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral parahippocampal gyrus and anterior insula. This determination was uncovered when examining brain MRIs (magnetic resonance images) of 17 meditators and 18 controls who did not meditate. In general, the meditation group demonstrated “lower pain sensitivity” and more robust tissue “in affective, pain-related brain regions”. The more experienced meditators had even “thicker gray matter in the anterior cingulate” and several other key regions of the brain. The conclusion of the study suggests that long-term meditation may actually alter the structure of the brain and reinforce gray matter in such a way that allows for pain to become less obvious. Another trial published in the January issue of the journal Pain postulates that the slow, rhythmic breathing involved in practices such as Zen meditation can effectively reduce sensations of “pain intensity and unpleasantness” in those with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and in generally healthy populations. (7,8,9)

Meditation Improves Immune Function and Lowers Stress Hormones
Source: PNAS October 23, 2007 vol. 104 no. 43 17152-17156 (link)

Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I recently started meditating every day. I think we’re like many other couples in that our days tend to be rather hectic and can be quite stressful. However, our perspective about the meditative process is that the time we devote to it will result in greater productivity throughout the day. We generally set aside 15-20 minutes in the morning and night to practice a non-verbal/silent form of mantra meditation. What we’ve detected thus far is that we appear to be less reactive to the various stressors that we encounter during the day. This not only promotes a more peaceful state of mind, but it also helps us to retain energy that we would normally expend in anxious or stress-induced states.

I want to offer a few tips that have assisted us in establishing a positive meditative routine. First of all, we try to view the twice-daily meditations as a welcome break rather than a chore or responsibility. During these periods we turn off our phones and allow ourselves to temporarily forget all of the thoughts that normally clutter the mind. This is, in essence, a mental or psychological vacation. Choosing an appropriate mantra was also an issue that we needed to address. The technique we decided upon was to create or select a phrase or word and then define it for ourselves. You can write down any word or words of your choosing, and then assign it/them your own personal significance. Specific mantras can be found in books about meditation or even online. However, the meaning you impart to a mantra is up to you.

Here’s a basic example of a mantra that can be employed during the practice of Transcendental Meditation.

  • Enga - Signifies my desire to feel more aware, loving and peaceful.
  • Enga - Signifies my desire to think more clearly and to make better decisions in my life.
  • Enga - Signifies my belief that my body and mind are capable of healing and staying well.

Meditation is a traditional practice that has a long history in most of the world’s religions but requires no specific spiritual belief at all. In fact, it need not be intimidating. It’s as simple as finding a relatively quiet place to sit, tuning out your everyday thoughts and just allowing yourself some much needed silence. You may choose to passively observe your breath, emote a chant or silently repeat a mantra. Some people even meditate while communing with nature or during their daily walk. Just know that if you’re genuinely interested in incorporating meditation into your life, there is certainly one form or another that can suit your needs.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Memory, Mental Health

27 Comments & Updates to “Meditation Brain”

  1. anne h Says:

    The trick is to not fall asleep!
    zzzzzz om zzzzz

  2. JP Says:

    Sometimes that happens. :) It’s no big deal though. That just means you’re in a very, very, very relaxed state of mind!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning JP :-)

    …green tea (matcha) before helps with concentration…. ommmmm ommmm ;-)

    Greetings,
    Nina K.

  4. JP Says:

    Another fine tip, Nina! Thank you! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Nina K. Says:

    JP you are welcome :-) ;-)

    wish you both a wonderful weekend :-)

    Nina K.

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina. :)

    I wish you and your husband the same!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Mark Says:

    JP,

    Can the words that are used for a mantra be any words or phrases that have a special meaning or are there certain words to use. Also do you focus on one part of the body and move the focus around or is it just saying repeating the mantra over and over?

  8. JP Says:

    Mark,

    Yes, any word or phrase can work. I simply used the TM mantra “enga” as an example of a word that has doesn’t have a specific meaning for most people. The word you choose can be common (examples: love, peace, understanding, etc.), a meaningful phrase (examples: grant me serenity, the Lord is my shepherd, peace lies within, etc.) or something that you make up and imbue with meaning.

    I silently repeat my mantra over and over without focusing on any specific body part or health issue. I simply read the paper that describes what my mantra means and then meditate. To be clear, I created the paper I’m referring. It’s tailor fit to address my own personal goals.

    I hope that’s clear and helpful. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Gaia Says:

    Great post! Nice site. thank you.

  10. JP Says:

    Thank you, Gaia! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  11. JP Says:

    Update: Mindfulness meditation reduces tension headache pain …

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25699282

    Nurs Midwifery Stud. 2014 Sep;3(3):e21136. Epub 2014 Sep 20.

    Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on pain severity and mindful awareness in patients with tension headache: a randomized controlled clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Programs to improve the pain and health status in illnesses with pain such as headache are still in their infancy. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a new psychotherapy that appears to be effective in treating chronic pain.

    OBJECTIVES: This study evaluated efficacy of MBSR in improving pain severity and mindful awareness in patients with tension headache.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study was a randomized controlled clinical trial that was conducted in 2012 in Shahid Beheshti Hospital of Kashan City. Sixty patients who were diagnosed with tension-type headache according to the International Headache Classification Subcommittee were randomly assigned to treatment as usual (TAU) or MBSR groups. The MBSR group received eight weekly treatments. Any session lasted 120 minutes. The sessions were based on MBSR protocol. Diary scale for measuring headache and Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) were administered at pretreatment, and posttreatment, and three-month follow-up in both groups. The data was analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance.

    RESULTS: The mean of pain severity was 7.36 ± 1.25 before intervention that was significantly reduced to 5.62 ± 1.74 and 6.07 ± 1.08 after the intervention and follow-up (P < 0.001). In addition, the MBSR group showed higher scores in mindful awareness in comparison with the control group at posttest session. The mean of mindful awareness before intervention was 34.9 ± 10.5 and changed to 53.8 ± 15.5 and 40.7 ± 10.9 after the intervention and follow-up sessions (P < 0.001).

    CONCLUSIONS: MBSR could reduce pain and improve mindfulness skills in patients with tension headache. It appears that MBSR is an effective psychotherapy for treatment of patients with tension headache.

    Be well!

    JP

  12. JP Says:

    Update 04/29/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25915646

    Psychol Trauma. 2015 Apr 27.

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to Enhance Psychological Functioning and Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Trauma-Exposed Women: A Pilot Study.

    This study examined the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on psychological functioning and inflammatory biomarkers in women with histories of interpersonal trauma. The 8-week MBSR program was conducted at a community-based health center and participants (N = 50) completed several measures of psychological functioning at study entry as well as 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks later. Inflammatory biomarkers were assayed from blood collected at each assessment. A series of linear mixed-model analyses were conducted to measure the effect of attendance and time on the dependent variables. Time was associated with significant decreases in perceived stress, depression, trait and state anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as increases in mindfulness. Session attendance was associated with significant decreases in interleukin (IL)-6 levels. This pilot study demonstrated the potential beneficial effects of MBSR on psychological functioning and the inflammatory biomarker IL-6 among trauma-exposed and primarily low-income women. Decreases in inflammation have implications for this population, as interpersonal trauma can instigate chronic physiological dysregulation, heightened morbidity, and premature death. This study’s preliminary results support efforts to investigate biological remediation with behavioral interventions in vulnerable populations.

    Be well!

    JP

  13. JP Says:

    Update 06/02/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26029093

    Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 May 12;9:281.

    Neuroprotective effects of yoga practice: age-, experience-, and frequency-dependent plasticity.

    Yoga combines postures, breathing, and meditation. Despite reported health benefits, yoga’s effects on the brain have received little study. We used magnetic resonance imaging to compare age-related gray matter (GM) decline in yogis and controls. We also examined the effect of increasing yoga experience and weekly practice on GM volume and assessed which aspects of weekly practice contributed most to brain size. Controls displayed the well documented age-related global brain GM decline while yogis did not, suggesting that yoga contributes to protect the brain against age-related decline. Years of yoga experience correlated mostly with GM volume differences in the left hemisphere (insula, frontal operculum, and orbitofrontal cortex) suggesting that yoga tunes the brain toward a parasympatically driven mode and positive states. The number of hours of weekly practice correlated with GM volume in the primary somatosensory cortex/superior parietal lobule (S1/SPL), precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), hippocampus, and primary visual cortex (V1). Commonality analyses indicated that the combination of postures and meditation contributed the most to the size of the hippocampus, precuneus/PCC, and S1/SPL while the combination of meditation and breathing exercises contributed the most to V1 volume. Yoga’s potential neuroprotective effects may provide a neural basis for some of its beneficial effects.

    Be well!

    JP

  14. JP Says:

    Updated 08/25/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26302249

    J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015 Aug 24.

    Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Reduces the Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Cognitions in Patients With a History of Suicidal Depression.

    OBJECTIVE: In patients with a history of suicidal depression, recurrence of depressive symptoms can easily reactivate suicidal thinking. In this study, we investigated whether training in mindfulness, which is aimed at helping patients “decenter” from negative thinking, could help weaken the link between depressive symptoms and suicidal cognitions.

    METHOD: Analyses were based on data from a recent randomized controlled trial, in which previously suicidal patients were allocated to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), an active control treatment, cognitive psychoeducation (CPE), which did not include any meditation practice, or treatment as usual (TAU). After the end of the treatment phase, we compared the associations between depressive symptoms, as assessed through self-reports on the Beck Depression Inventory-II (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996), and suicidal thinking, as assessed through the Suicidal Cognitions Scale (Rudd et al., 2001).

    RESULTS: In patients with minimal to moderate symptoms at the time of assessment, comparisons of the correlations between depressive symptoms and suicidal cognitions showed significant differences between the groups. Although suicidal cognitions were significantly related to levels of symptoms in the 2 control groups, there was no such relation in the MBCT group.

    CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that, in patients with a history of suicidal depression, training in mindfulness can help to weaken the association between depressive symptoms and suicidal thinking, and thus reduce an important vulnerability for relapse to suicidal depression.

    Be well!

    JP

  15. JP Says:

    Updated 09/10/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4546979/

    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:259814.

    Yoga May Mitigate Decreases in High School Grades.

    This study involves an exploratory examination of the effects of a 12-week school-based yoga intervention on changes in grade point average (GPA) in 9th and 10th grade students. Participants included 95 high school students who had registered for physical education (PE) in spring 2010. PE class sections were group randomized to receive either a yoga intervention or a PE-as-usual control condition. The yoga intervention took place during the entire third quarter and half of the fourth quarter of the school year, and quarterly GPA was collected via school records at the end of the school year. Results revealed a significant interaction between group and quarter suggesting that GPA differed between the yoga and control groups over time. Post hoc tests revealed that while both groups exhibited a general decline in GPA over the school year, the control group exhibited a significantly greater decline in GPA from quarter 1 to quarter 3 than the yoga group. Both groups showed equivalent declines in GPA in quarter 4 after the yoga intervention had ended. The results suggest that yoga may have a protective effect on academic performance by preventing declines in GPA; however these preventive effects may not persist once yoga practice is discontinued.

    Be well!

    JP

  16. JP Says:

    Updated 03/30/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27021514

    Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Jan 29.

    Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: Mindfulness meditation training interventions have been shown to improve markers of health, but the underlying neurobiological mechanisms are not known. Building on initial cross-sectional research showing that mindfulness meditation may increase default mode network (DMN) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) with regions important in top-down executive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [dlPFC]), here we test whether mindfulness meditation training increases DMN-dlPFC rsFC and whether these rsFC alterations prospectively explain improvements in interleukin (IL)-6 in a randomized controlled trial.

    METHODS: Stressed job-seeking unemployed community adults (n = 35) were randomized to either a 3-day intensive residential mindfulness meditation or relaxation training program. Participants completed a 5-minute resting-state scan before and after the intervention program. Participants also provided blood samples at preintervention and at 4-month follow-up, which were assayed for circulating IL-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation.

    RESULTS: We tested for alterations in DMN rsFC using a posterior cingulate cortex seed-based analysis and found that mindfulness meditation training, and not relaxation training, increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with left dlPFC (p < .05, corrected). These pretraining to posttraining alterations in posterior cingulate cortex-dlPFC rsFC statistically mediated mindfulness meditation training improvements in IL-6 at 4-month follow-up. Specifically, these alterations in rsFC statistically explained 30% of the overall mindfulness meditation training effects on IL-6 at follow-up.

    CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide the first evidence that mindfulness meditation training functionally couples the DMN with a region known to be important in top-down executive control at rest (left dlPFC), which, in turn, is associated with improvements in a marker of inflammatory disease risk.

    Be well!

    JP

  17. JP Says:

    Updated 05/23/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4845593/

    Front Psychol. 2016 Apr 26;7:590.

    Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.

    OBJECTIVE: There is a research gap in studies that evaluate the effectiveness of a school-embedded mindfulness-based intervention for both students and teachers. To address this gap, the present pilot study reviews relevant literature and investigates whether students and teachers who participate in separate Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses show improvements across a variety of psychological variables including areas of mental health and creativity.

    METHODS: The study applied a controlled waitlist design with three measurement points. A total of 29 students (n = 15 in the intervention and n = 14 in the waitlist group) and 29 teachers (n = 14 in the intervention and n = 15 in the waitlist group) completed questionnaires before and after the MBSR course. The intervention group was also assessed after a 4-month follow-up period.

    RESULTS: Relative to the control group, significant improvements in self-reported stress, self-regulation, school-specific self-efficacy and interpersonal problems were found among the students who participated in the MBSR course (p < 0.05, Cohens’ d ranges from 0.62 to 0.68). Medium effect sizes on mindfulness, anxiety and creativity indicate a realistic potential in those areas. By contrast, teachers in the intervention group showed significantly higher self-reported mindfulness levels and reduced interpersonal problems compared to the control group(p < 0.05, Cohens’ d = 0.66 and 0.42, respectively), with medium effect sizes on anxiety and emotion regulation.

    CONCLUSION: The present findings contribute to a growing body of studies investigating mindfulness in schools by discussing the similarities and differences in the effects of MBSR on students and teachers as well as stressing the importance of investigating interpersonal effects.

    Be well!

    JP

  18. JP Says:

    Updated 06/15/16:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09540261.2016.1191447?journalCode=iirp20

    Int Rev Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 14:1-10.

    Immediate effect of two yoga-based relaxation techniques on cognitive functions in patients suffering from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis: A comparative study.

    Cognitive impairment (CI) is an important feature of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). Yogic relaxation techniques have been found useful in improving various cognitive domains in health and disease. Eighteen subjects (13 females) in the age range of 51.5 ± 12.72 years with the diagnosis of RRMS by a neurologist (McDonald Criteria 2010) since last 18.16 ± 12.59 years were recruited into the study from a neuro-rehabilitation centre in Germany. Assessments were done before and immediately after two randomly allocated 30-min sessions of yogic relaxation: Cyclic Meditation (CM) and SR (supine rest or shavasana). Assessments were done for attention, psychomotor performance, information processing speed, executive functions, and immediate and delayed recall using standard psychometric tools. RMANOVA was applied to analyse the data using SPSS version 10. Both CM and SR sessions improved scores on Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) (p < 0.01) and Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) (p < 0.05). There was a significantly better performance in Trail Making Test (TMT)-A and forward digit span (FDS) after CM as compared to SR (p < 0.01). Yogic relaxation techniques may have an immediate enhancing effect on processing speed, psychomotor performance, and recall of RRMS patients. CM is better than SR in improving processing speed, short-term memory, and verbal working memory.

    Be well!

    JP

  19. JP Says:

    Updated 07/19/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27429096

    Brain Cogn. 2016 Jul 15;108:32-41.

    8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice – A systematic review.

    The objective of the current study was to systematically review the evidence of the effect of secular mindfulness techniques on function and structure of the brain. Based on areas known from traditional meditation neuroimaging results, we aimed to explore a neuronal explanation of the stress-reducing effects of the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program.

    METHODS: We assessed the effect of MBSR and MBCT (N=11, all MBSR), components of the programs (N=15), and dispositional mindfulness (N=4) on brain function and/or structure as assessed by (functional) magnetic resonance imaging. 21 fMRI studies and seven MRI studies were included (two studies performed both).

    RESULTS: The prefrontal cortex, the cingulate cortex, the insula and the hippocampus showed increased activity, connectivity and volume in stressed, anxious and healthy participants. Additionally, the amygdala showed decreased functional activity, improved functional connectivity with the prefrontal cortex, and earlier deactivation after exposure to emotional stimuli.

    CONCLUSION: Demonstrable functional and structural changes in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, insula and hippocampus are similar to changes described in studies on traditional meditation practice. In addition, MBSR led to changes in the amygdala consistent with improved emotion regulation. These findings indicate that MBSR-induced emotional and behavioral changes are related to functional and structural changes in the brain.

    Be well!

    JP

  20. JP Says:

    Updated 10/20/16:

    http://chp.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/10/04/2156587216668109.full

    J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Sep 30.

    Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study.

    Poor mood and elevated anxiety are linked to increased incidence of disease. This study examined the effects of sound meditation, specifically Tibetan singing bowl meditation, on mood, anxiety, pain, and spiritual well-being. Sixty-two women and men (mean age 49.7 years) participated. As compared with pre-meditation, following the sound meditation participants reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood (all Ps <.001). Additionally, participants who were previously naïve to this type of meditation experienced a significantly greater reduction in tension compared with participants experienced in this meditation (P < .001). Feeling of spiritual well-being significantly increased across all participants (P < .001). Tibetan singing bowl meditation may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being. This meditation type may be especially useful in decreasing tension in individuals who have not previously practiced this form of meditation.

    Be well!

    JP

  21. JP Says:

    Updated 11/18/16:

    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698/full

    Front Psychol. 2016 Nov 1;7:1698.

    Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation.

    Following training, motor memory consolidation is thought to involve either memory stabilization or off-line learning processes. The extent to which memory stabilization or off-line learning relies on post-training wakeful periods or sleep is not clear and thus, novel research approaches are needed to further explore the conditions that promote motor memory consolidation. The present experiment represents the first empirical test of meditation as potential facilitator of motor memory consolidation. Twelve adult residents of a yoga center with a mean of 9 years meditation experience were trained on a sequence key pressing task. Three hours after training, the meditation group completed a 30 min session of yoga nidra meditation while a control group completed 30 min of light work duties. A wakeful period of 4.5 h followed meditation after which participants completed a test involving both trained and untrained sequences. Training performance did not significantly differ between groups. Comparison of group performance at test, revealed a performance benefit of post-training meditation but this was limited to trained sequences only. That the post-training meditation performance benefit was specific to trained sequences is consistent with the notion of meditation promoting motor memory consolidation as opposed to general motor task performance benefits from meditation. Further, post-training meditation appears to have promoted motor memory stabilization as opposed to off-line learning. These findings represent the first demonstration of meditation related motor memory consolidation and are consistent with a growing body of literature demonstrating the benefits of meditation for cognitive function, including memory.

    Be well!

    JP

  22. JP Says:

    Updated 11/26/16:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27885763

    Br J Health Psychol. 2016 Nov 25.

    Meditation awareness training for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome: A randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to conduct the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of a second-generation mindfulness-based intervention (SG-MBI) for treating fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Compared to first-generation mindfulness-based interventions, SG-MBIs are more acknowledging of the spiritual aspect of mindfulness.

    DESIGN: A RCT employing intent-to-treat analysis.

    METHODS: Adults with FMS received an 8-week SG-MBI known as meditation awareness training (MAT; n = 74) or an active control intervention known as cognitive behaviour theory for groups (n = 74). Assessments were performed at pre-, post-, and 6-month follow-up phases.

    RESULTS: Meditation awareness training participants demonstrated significant and sustained improvements over control group participants in FMS symptomatology, pain perception, sleep quality, psychological distress, non-attachment (to self, symptoms, and environment), and civic engagement. A mediation analysis found that (1) civic engagement partially mediated treatment effects for all outcome variables, (2) non-attachment partially mediated treatment effects for psychological distress and sleep quality, and (3) non-attachment almost fully mediated treatment effects for FMS symptomatology and pain perception. Average daily time spent in meditation was found to be a significant predictor of changes in all outcome variables.

    CONCLUSIONS: Meditation awareness training may be a suitable treatment for adults with FMS and appears to ameliorate FMS symptomatology and pain perception by reducing attachment to self. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Designing interventions to treat fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) continues to be a challenge. There is growing interest into the applications of mindfulness-based interventions for treating FMS. Second-generation mindfulness-based interventions (SG-MBIs) are a key new direction in mindfulness research. What does this study add? Meditation awareness training – an SG-MBI – resulted in significant reductions in FMS symptomatology. SG-MBIs recognize the spiritual aspect of mindfulness and may have a role in the treatment of FMS.

    Be well!

    JP

  23. JP Says:

    Updated 12/05/16:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27911321

    J Parkinsons Dis. 2016 Nov 26.

    The Effects of Meditation on Grey Matter Atrophy and Neurodegeneration: A Systematic Review.

    The present systematic review is based on the premise that a variety of neurodegenerative diseases are accompanied by grey matter atrophy in the brain and meditation may impact this. Given that age is a major risk factor for many of these progressive and neurodegenerative diseases and that the percentage of the population over the age of 65 is quickly increasing, there is an obvious need for prompt treatment and prevention advances in research. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, many are seeking non-pharmacological treatment options in attempts to offset the disease-related cognitive and functional declines. On the basis of a growing body of research suggesting that meditation is effective in increasing grey matter volume in healthy participants, this paper systematically reviewed the literature regarding the effects of meditation on restoring grey matter volume in healthy individuals and those affected by neurodegeneration. This review searched PubMed, CINAHL, and APA PsycNET to identify original studies that included MRI imaging to measure grey matter volume in meditators and post-mindfulness-based intervention participants compared to controls. Thirteen studies were considered eligible for review and involved a wide variety of meditation techniques and included participants with and without cognitive impairment. All studies reported significant increases in grey matter volume in the meditators/intervention group, albeit in assorted regions of the brain. Limited research exists on the mechanisms through which meditation affects disease-related neurodegeneration, but preliminary evidence suggests that it may offset grey matter atrophy.

    Be well!

    JP

  24. JP Says:

    Updated 02/07/17:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28163795

    Mindfulness (N Y). 2017;8(1):78-94.

    Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults.

    There is growing interest in the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation practices in terms of counteracting some of the cognitive effects associated with aging. Pursuing this question, the aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of mindfulness training on executive control and emotion regulation in older adults, by means of studying behavioral and electrophysiological changes. Participants, 55 to 75 years of age, were randomly allocated to an 8-week mindful breath awareness training group or an active control group engaging in brain training exercises. Before and after the training period, participants completed an emotional-counting Stroop task, designed to measure attentional control and emotion regulation processes. Concurrently, their brain activity was measured by means of 64-channel electroencephalography. The results show that engaging in just over 10 min of mindfulness practice five times per week resulted in significant improvements in behavioral (response latency) and electrophysiological (N2 event-related potential) measures related to general task performance. Analyses of the underlying cortical sources (Variable Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography, VARETA) indicate that this N2-related effect is primarily associated with changes in the right angular gyrus and other areas of the dorsal attention network. However, the study did not find the expected specific improvements in executive control and emotion regulation, which may be due to the training instructions or the relative brevity of the intervention. Overall, the results indicate that engaging in mindfulness meditation training improves the maintenance of goal-directed visuospatial attention and may be a useful strategy for counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging.

    Be well!

    JP

  25. JP Says:

    Updated 06/22/17:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28634520

    J Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2017 Mar 31;7(1):21-27.

    Effect of heartfulness meditation on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in health care professionals.

    Background: Burnout poses significant challenges during training years in residency and later in the career. Meditation is a tool to treat stress-related conditions and promote wellness. Telomere length may be affected by burnout and stress. However, the benefits of meditation have not been fully demonstrated in health care professionals.

    Objective: We assessed the effects of a 12-week ‘Heartfulness Meditation’ program on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in residents, faculty members, and nurses at a large community teaching hospital during the 2015-16 academic year.

    Methods: All subjects completed a baseline Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and Emotional Wellness Assessment (EWA) at the beginning of the study. Meditators received instructions in Heartfulness Meditation. At week 12, subjects completed a follow up MBI and EWA scores. Salivary telomere length was measured at baseline and week 12.

    Results: Twenty-seven out of a total 155 residents (17.4%) along with eight faculty physicians and 12 nurses participated in the study. Thirty-five enrolled as meditators and 12 as controls. At 12 weeks, the meditators had statistically significant improvement in all measures of burnout and in nearly all attributes of EWA. Controls showed no statistically significant changes in either burnout or emotional wellness scores. Relative telomere length increased with statistical significance in a younger subset of meditators.

    Conclusion: Our results indicate that meditation offers an accessible and efficient method by which physician and nurse burnout can be ameliorated and wellness can be enhanced. The increased telomere length is an interesting finding but needs to be confirmed with further research.

    Be well!

    JP

  26. JP Says:

    Updated 11/28/17:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796717302358

    Behav Res Ther. 2017 Nov 22;100:44-53.

    Effects of brief mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation inductions on emotional and behavioral responses to social rejection among individuals with high borderline personality traits.

    Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by an enduring pattern of instability across affective, behavioral, cognitive, and interpersonal domains. Individuals with BPD are known to be particularly vulnerable to experiences of social rejection, but little work has examined strategies that may moderate their reactivity to social rejection. Using a laboratory experimental approach, this study investigated the effects of brief mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation (LKM) inductions on emotional and behavioral responses to social rejection in a sample of adults with high BPD traits. One hundred and eighteen participants were randomly assigned to receive 10 min of mindful breathing practice, LKM, or a no-instruction control condition, prior to exposure to a social rejection manipulation. Participants rated their emotions and completed a competitive reaction time task, which provided a proxy measure of aggression. Compared to the control condition, the mindfulness group demonstrated significantly quicker recovery in negative affect and feelings of rejection after social rejection. The mindfulness group also reported significantly quicker recovery in negative affect compared to the LKM group. Whereas baseline trait mindfulness negatively predicted aggressive behaviors across all participants, groups did not differ in immediate emotional reactivity or aggressive behavior following social rejection. The findings suggest that mindfulness training may be a promising strategy in alleviating negative emotional effects of social rejection among individuals with high borderline personality traits, and highlight the limited utility of brief LKM practice in buffering the effects of social rejection.

    Be well!

    JP

  27. JP Says:

    Updated 12/07/17:

    https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jcim.ahead-of-print/jcim-2016-0048/jcim-2016-0048.xml

    J Complement Integr Med. 2017 Dec 5.

    Effect of mindfulness meditation on short-term weight loss and eating behaviors in overweight and obese adults: A randomized controlled trial.

    Background: There is a significant health crisis with rates of obesity continuing to increase despite research and clinical standard behavioral weight loss programs (SBWP). Mindfulness meditation (MM), with demonstrated benefits on physical, psychological health, and self-regulation behaviors was explored with SBWP.

    Methods: Forty-six adults (BMI=32.5±3.7 kg/m2; age=45.2±8.2 years, 87 % female, 21.7 % African American) were randomly assigned to a 6-month SBWP only (n=24) or SBWP+MM (n=22) at a university-based physical activity and weight management research center in a northeastern US city. Participants were instructed to decrease intake (1200-1500 kcal/day), increase physical activity (300 min/wk), and attend weekly SBWP or SBWP+MM sessions. SBWP+MM had the same SBWP lessons with addition of focused MM training. Outcome measures collected at 0, 3, and 6 months included: weight, Block Food Frequency Questionnaire, Eating Behavior Inventory, Eating Inventory and Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire. Data were analyzed using linear mixed modeling for efficacy analysis of weight (primary) and eating, exercise and mindfulness (secondary outcomes).

    Results: Retention rate was 76.1 % (n=35). A significant group by time interaction (p=0.03) was found for weight, with weight loss favoring SBWP+MM (-6.9 kg+2.9) over SBWP (-4.1 kg+2.8). Eating behaviors (p=0.02) and dietary restraint (p=0.02) improved significantly in SBWP+MM, compared to SBWP. MM enhanced weight loss by 2.8 kg potentially through greater improvements in eating behaviors and dietary restraint.

    Conclusions: These findings support further study into the use of MM strategies with overweight and obese adults. The use of this low-cost, portable strategy with standard behavioral interventions could improve weight management outcomes.

    Be well!

    JP

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