Mindfulness Meta-study Reveals Conflicting Findings

This meta study finds t conflicts between methodology and findings of mindfulness research.

pexels-photo-415779.jpeg

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

Year: 2014

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

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24395196

Problems in the Definition of Mindfulness

What does mindfulness mean, how is the term used and how closely does it relate to the practice?

pexels-photo-356079.jpeg

Title: Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness

Author: Georges Dreyfus

Year: 2011

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

Link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14639947.2011.564815?src=recsys

 

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