Investigating the Phenomenological Matrix of Mindfulness-Related Practices from a Neurocognitive Perspective

The experience of the meditator in meditation research

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Title: Investigating the Phenomenological Matrix of Mindfulness-Related Practices from a Neurocognitive Perspective

Authors: Antoine Lutz, Amishi P. Jha, John D. Dunne, Clifford D. Saron

Year: 2015

Summary: This review of research into mindfulness summarises a significant amount of recent nonclinical investigation into the subject. It presents mindfulness as a series of different but related practices which cover diverse phenomena. It highlights the broad spectrum of mindfulness and how it is understood from both spiritual and secular perspectives. This paper expresses the complex nature of mindfulness meditation within ‘a multidimensional phenomenological matrix which itself can be expressed in a neurocognitive framework’. Opportunities and approaches for new research in the general area of mindfulness are suggested. Several important and under researched concerns are raised in this investigation, and calls for a greater understanding of the ethical and axiological contexts are particularly welcome. This work may in due course prove to be an important milestone in the research of meditation in general and mindfulness in particular.

Perspective: Neurocognitive, phenomenological, cognitive psychology

Link: https://www.upaya.org/uploads/pdfs/DunneSaron.pdf

 

Challenges in Researching Mindfulness

Problems in the scientific research of meditation and mindfulness.

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Authors: Richard J. Davidson, Alfred W. Kaszniak

Year: 2015

Title: Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Research on Mindfulness and Meditation

Summary: As western psychological investigation into meditation and mindfulness increases, concerns are being raised about how to understand and integrate the wide ranging findings that are being published. Mindfulness is a very general term for one meditative approach which can include a number of distinct psychological phenomena. This paper discusses the conceptual and methodological difficulties in researching this area. Addressing the challenges of creating and subsequently evaluating findings, which by their very nature may only be fully appreciated in the first person.

Perspective: Cognitive psychology, neuroscience

Link: http://centerhealthyminds.org/assets/files-publications/DavidsonConceptualAP.pdf

 

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density

Mindfulness increases some brain matter dentsity

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Authors: Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W

Year: 2011

Title: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density

Summary: An investigation into the neural mechanisms underpinning that may be impacted by the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) form of mindfulness meditation.  Sixteen participants with no prior experience of meditation were put through an eight-week MSBR training programme. Any observed changes to grey matter concentration within the MBSR group were investigated and compared to a control group. Analyses indicated the MBSR group experienced increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum. These findings suggest a potential relationship between the practice of MBSR and changes to the concentration of grey matter in parts of the brain connected to learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, as well as perspective-taking. The number of participants in the control group is low (16), so replication with a larger number of people is essential. It would also be interesting to know if any parts of the brain suffered reduced concentration of grey matter.

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21071182

The Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Time Perception

Mindfulness and time perception – a cognitive study

pexels-photo-745365.jpegAuthor: Robin S.S. Kramer, Ulrich W. Weger, Dinkar Sharma

Year: 2013

Title: The effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception

Summary: Research based on the hypothesis that because mindfulness meditation focuses on living in the moment, practitioners’ perception of time would be changed compared to a control group. In a within-subject design experiment, participants carried out temporal bisection tasks. Results indicated that the perception of time duration of the experimental group was altered via attentional processes.

Perspective: Cognitive psychology,  neuroscience

Link: http://www.sciencedirect.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S1053810013000792

Mindfulness: Towards A Critical Relational Perspective

A critical perspective of mindfulness. Understanding the contemporary mindfulness movement in a wider perspective.

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Author: Steven Stanley

Year: 2013

Title: Mindfulness: Towards A Critical Relational Perspective

Summary: This research acknowledges the increasing role of mindfulness in the west; enabling people to engage with new approaches to cope with issues connected to subjective wellbeing such as stress, depression and anxiety. It also discusses the appropriation of ‘mindfulness’ by psychology and the potential for conflict between its role in traditional and modern westernised meditation movements. A social critique, exposing the failure (and thus the potential opportunity) of psychology to integrate mindfulness as a personal and social practice.

Perspective: Social psychology, discursive psychology

Links: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00454.x/abstract

Loving-kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study

What is the effect of loving kindness meditation for post traumatic stress disorder

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Authors: Kearney DJ, Malte CA, McManus C, Martinez ME, Felleman B, Simpson TL.

Year: 2013

Title: Loving-kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study

Summary: A trial of loving kindness meditation was undertaken with veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants were given 12 weeks training in loving-kindness meditation and measured for PTSD, depression, self-compassion, and mindfulness at different stages. The effects of this pilot demonstrated a range of benefits for participants from the meditation and concluded that the practice was both “safe” and “acceptable”. A pilot study but really strong participant attendance (74% involved in 9 to 12 classes) and fascinating results:

  • self-compassion increased with large effect
  • mindfulness increased with medium to large effect
  • PSTD symptoms subject to a large effect at 3-month follow-up (d = -0.89)
  • depression  subject to a medium effect at 3 months

Perspective: Health psychology, positive psychology, clinical psychology

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893519

The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-being

Authors: Brown KW, Ryan RM

Year: 2003

Title: The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-being

Summary: Research assessing mindfulness practice from empirical and theoretical perspectives. In conclusion a clinical intervention study indicates a relationship between increasing mindfulness and reduced stress in cancer patients.

Perspective: Social psychology, health psychology

Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12703651/

Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners

Authors: J. A. Brefczynski-Lewis, A. Lutz, H. S. Schaefer, D. B. Levinson and R. J. Davidson

Year: 2007

Title: Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners

Summary: With the use of fMRI it was found that people with an average of 19.000 hours of meditation experience had greater activation of brain regions associated with sustained attention than novice meditators. However it appears that experienced meditators with an average of 44,000 hours meditation had less activation of the same regions (inverted u-shaped curve distribution). When compared to novices, experienced meditators appear to have less brain activation in regions related to discursive thoughts but greater activation in response inhibition regions.

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://www.pnas.org/content/104/27/11483.long#sec-5

Effects of Mindful-attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-meditative State

Authors: Gaëlle Desbordes, Lobsang T. Negi, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, B. Alan Wallace, Charles L. Raison and Eric L. Schwartz

Year: 2012

Title: Effects of Mindful-attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-meditative State

Summary: There is a long standing association between the amygdala and emotional processing. Previous research has indicated that in a meditative state amygdala response to emotional stimuli could be reduced. However this investigation points to the possibility that the effect of meditation training on emotional processing may exert an influence beyond the meditative-state. Participants were given training in either Mindful Attention Training (MAT) or Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT).

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full

Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise

Authors: Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson

Year: 2008

Title: Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise

Summary: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigation of the insula and anterior cingulate cortices in empathic response during loving-kindness, compassionate meditation. The contrast between rest and meditation states indicated increased activation in amygdala, right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). The findings when taken in their entirety suggests the cultivation of positive emotional states through meditation creates changes to the activation of circuitries  linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli.

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001897

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