This meta study finds t conflicts between methodology and findings of mindfulness research.
Title: Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Authors: M Goyal, S Singh, EM Sibinga, NF Gould, A Rowland-Seymour, R Sharma, Z Berger, D Sleicher, DD Maron, HM Shihab, PD Ranasinghe, S Linn, S Saha, EB Bass, JA Haythornthwaite
Summary: In this meta-analysis the effectiveness of meditation programs to impact on stress related outcomes was investigated. Randomized clinical trials where meditation was used by adult clinical populations to reduce the effect of conditions including; anxiety, perceived quality of life, depression, substance use, stress and distress were studied. The analysis included 47 trials with 3515 participants and indicated that mindfulness meditation training delivered moderate evidence of lower anxiety levels, depression and experience of pain and low evidence of improvements to stress, and distress levels. The research found little evidence that meditation had any significant impact on: eating habits, sleep, attention, substance use or positive mood. In conclusion the study found that meditation offered no greater benefit than other active treatments such as drugs, exercise or therapeutic intervention.
Perspective: Health psychology, medicine
Definitions of mindfulness – MBSR, MBCT
Title: On Some Definitions of Mindfulness
Author: Rupert Gethin
Summary: Rupert Gethin cites Rhys Davids as the first person to translate the concept of mindfulness from the Pali sati or the Sanskrit smrti, although he stresses subsequent difficulties in finding a workable definition of the term. According to Gethin, Nyanaponika’s definition appears to have been particularly influential in providing an acceptable explanation, particularly within the MBSR and MBCT approaches to meditation. However he argues that the Theravāda exposition of mindfulness may include elements not immediately explicit in either MBSR or MBCT; concerns are also raised over the use and understanding of the term ‘non-judgmental’. In conclusion Gethin suggests that westernized approaches to Buddhism may have contributed to a ‘succinct’ definition of mindfulness, and that the clinical applications of MBSR and MBCT may lead to further understanding of mindfulness and the implications for its practice.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, religious studies, contemporary Buddhism
What does mindfulness mean, how is the term used and how closely does it relate to the practice?
Title: Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness
Author: Georges Dreyfus
Summary: Among the issues that are publicly manifesting in the research of ‘mindfulness’ are fundamental problems achieving reliable and consistent understandings of the term itself. Definitions of mindfulness are becoming an increasingly thorny issue both as a cognitive process as well as a soteriological path. Some accounts of mindfulness express the concept as ‘present-centered non-judgmental awareness’, a view that that is challenged in this critique by Georges Dreyfus. Dreyfus argues that the essence of mindfulness is connected to the phenomenon of ‘sustained attention’ and can, to some extent engage evaluative processes. Whilst acknowledging merit in the modern definitions of mindfulness, this essay highlights significant discrepancies with traditional Buddhist accounts and more general uncertainty regarding the wider theoretical understanding.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, contemporary Buddhism, religious studies
Is the social context an essential element of meditation?
Author: Laurence J. Kirmayer
Title: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
Summary: Whilst western psychology has acknowledged the strong relationship that exists between the mindfulness movement and Buddhism. There appears to be a limited appreciation of the implications of social context in understanding either the traditional Buddhist or western approaches to mindfulness.
The experience of the meditator in meditation research
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
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
Mindfulness increases some brain matter dentsity
Authors: Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W
Title: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density
Summary: An investigation into the neural mechanisms that may be impacted by the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) form of mindfulness meditation. 16 participants with no prior experience of meditation were put through an eight week MSBR training programme. Any changes to grey matter concentration within the MBSR group were investigated and compared to the 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. The findings suggest a potential relationship between the practice of MBSR and changes to concentration of grey matter in parts of the brain connected to learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.
Mindfulness and time perception – a cognitive study
Author: Robin S.S. Kramer, Ulrich W. Weger, Dinkar Sharma
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