SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Meditation

478

Stories of g-tummo meditators mysteriously able to dry wet sheets wrapped around their naked bodies during a frigid Himalayan ceremony have intrigued scholars and laypersons alike for a century. Study 1 was conducted in remote monasteries of eastern Tibet with expert meditators performing g-tummo practices while their axillary temperature and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity were measured. Study 2 was conducted with Western participants (a non-meditator control group) instructed to use the somatic component of the g-tummo practice (vase breathing) without utilization of meditative visualization. Reliable increases in axillary temperature from normal to slight or moderate fever zone (up to 38.3°C) were observed among meditators only during the Forceful Breath type of g-tummo meditation accompanied by increases in alpha, beta, and gamma power. The magnitude of the temperature increases significantly correlated with the increases in alpha power during Forceful Breath meditation. The findings indicate that there are two factors affecting temperature increase. The first is the somatic component which causes thermogenesis, while the second is the neurocognitive component (meditative visualization) that aids in sustaining temperature increases for longer periods. Without meditative visualization, both meditators and non-meditators were capable of using the Forceful Breath vase breathing only for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature. Overall, the results suggest that specific aspects of the g-tummo technique might help non-meditators learn how to regulate their body temperature, which has implications for improving health and regulating cognitive performance.

Concepts: Temperature, Electroencephalography, Human body, Meditation, Spirituality, Binaural beats, Anapanasati

296

Buddhist-derived meditation practices are currently being employed as a popular form of health promotion. While meditation programs draw inspiration from Buddhist textual sources for the benefits of meditation, these sources also acknowledge a wide range of other effects beyond health-related outcomes. The Varieties of Contemplative Experience study investigates meditation-related experiences that are typically underreported, particularly experiences that are described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support. A mixed-methods approach featured qualitative interviews with Western Buddhist meditation practitioners and experts in Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. Interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors, including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessments of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice-related variables. The content-driven thematic analysis of interviews yielded a taxonomy of 59 meditation-related experiences across 7 domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. Even in cases where the phenomenology was similar across participants, interpretations of and responses to the experiences differed considerably. The associated valence ranged from very positive to very negative, and the associated level of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. In order to determine what factors may influence the valence, impact, and response to any given experience, the study also identified 26 categories of influencing factors across 4 domains: practitioner-level factors, practice-level factors, relationships, and health behaviors. By identifying a broader range of experiences associated with meditation, along with the factors that contribute to the presence and management of experiences reported as challenging, difficult, distressing or functionally impairing, this study aims to increase our understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for mediators, clinicians, meditation researchers, and meditation teachers.

Concepts: Psychology, Experience, Meditation, Buddhism, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Anapanasati, Buddhism and psychology

171

Zen Buddhist meditative practices emphasize the long-term, mindful training of attention and awareness during one’s ordinary daily-life activities, the shedding of egocentric behaviors, and the skillful application of one’s innate compassionate resources of insight-wisdom toward others and oneself. This review focuses on how such a comprehensive approach to training the brain could relate to a distinctive flavor of Zen: its emphasis on direct experience, with special reference to those major acute states of awakening that create deep transformations of consciousness and behavior. In Japanese, these advanced states are called kensho and satori. Ten key concepts are reviewed. They begin by distinguishing between the concentrative and receptive forms of meditation, noticing the complementary ways that they each train our normal “top-down” and “bottom-up” modes of attentive processing. Additional concepts distinguish between our two major processing pathways. The self-centered, egocentric frame of reference processes information in relation to our body (our soma) or to our mental functions (our psyche). The other-centered frame of reference processes information anonymously. Its prefix, allo- simply means “other” in Greek. Subsequent concepts consider how these useful Greek words-ego/allo, soma/psyche-correlate with the normal functional anatomy of important thalamo ↔ cortical connections. A plausible model then envisions how a triggering stimulus that captures attention could prompt the reticular nucleus to release GABA; how its selective inhibition of the dorsal thalamus could then block both our higher somatic and psychic cortical functions; so as to: (a) delete the maladaptive aspects of selfhood, while also (b) releasing the direct, all-inclusive, globally-unified experience of other. Two final concepts consider how the long-term meditative training of intuitive functions relates to certain kinds of word-free spatial tasks that involve insightful creative problem-solving.

Concepts: Psychology, Cerebral cortex, Meditation, Buddhism, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Satori, Kensho

170

BACKGROUND: Tinnitus, the perception of sound in absence of an external acoustic source, impairs the quality of life in 2% of the population. Since in most cases causal treatment is not possible, the majority of therapeutic attempts aim at developing and strengthening individual coping and habituation strategies. Therapeutic interventions that incorporate training in mindfulness meditation have become increasingly popular in the treatment of stress-related disorders. Here we conducted a randomized, controlled clinical study to investigate the efficacy of a specific mindfulness- and body-psychotherapy based program in patients suffering from chronic tinnitus. METHODS: Thirty-six patients were enrolled in this pilot study. The treatment was specifically developed for tinnitus patients and is based on mindfulness and body psychotherapy. Treatment was performed as group therapy at two training weekends that were separated by an interval of 7 weeks (eleven hours/weekend) and in four further two-hour sessions (week 2, 9, 18 and 22). Patients were randomized to receive treatment either immediately or after waiting time, which served as a control condition. The primary study outcome was the change in tinnitus complaints as measured by the German Version of the Tinnitus Questionnaire (TQ). RESULTS: ANOVA testing for the primary outcome showed a significant interaction effect time by group (F = 7.4; df = 1,33; p = 0.010). Post hoc t-tests indicated an amelioration of TQ scores from baseline to week 9 in both groups (intervention group: t = 6.2; df = 17; p < 0.001; control group: t = 2.5; df = 16; p = 0.023), but the intervention group improved more than the control group. Groups differed at week 7 and 9, but not at week 24 as far as the TQ score was concerned. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that this mindfulness- and body-psychotherapy-based approach is feasible in the treatment of tinnitus and merits further evaluation in clinical studies with larger sample sizes.The study is registered with clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01540357).

Concepts: Experimental design, Clinical trial, Effectiveness, ClinicalTrials.gov, Clinical research, Psychotherapy, Meditation, Mindfulness

160

IMPORTANCE Many people meditate to reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. To counsel people appropriately, clinicians need to know what the evidence says about the health benefits of meditation. OBJECTIVE To determine the efficacy of meditation programs in improving stress-related outcomes (anxiety, depression, stress/distress, positive mood, mental health-related quality of life, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight) in diverse adult clinical populations. EVIDENCE REVIEW We identified randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo effects through November 2012 from MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, PsycArticles, Scopus, CINAHL, AMED, the Cochrane Library, and hand searches. Two independent reviewers screened citations and extracted data. We graded the strength of evidence using 4 domains (risk of bias, precision, directness, and consistency) and determined the magnitude and direction of effect by calculating the relative difference between groups in change from baseline. When possible, we conducted meta-analyses using standardized mean differences to obtain aggregate estimates of effect size with 95% confidence intervals. FINDINGS After reviewing 18 753 citations, we included 47 trials with 3515 participants. Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety (effect size, 0.38 [95% CI, 0.12-0.64] at 8 weeks and 0.22 [0.02-0.43] at 3-6 months), depression (0.30 [0.00-0.59] at 8 weeks and 0.23 [0.05-0.42] at 3-6 months), and pain (0.33 [0.03- 0.62]) and low evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life. We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Clinicians should be aware that meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Thus, clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health and stress-related behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Clinical trial, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Cochrane Library, Clinical research, Meta-analysis, Meditation

115

In four large, nationally representative surveys (N = 11.2 million), American adolescents and emerging adults in the 2010s (Millennials) were significantly less religious than previous generations (Boomers, Generation X) at the same age. The data are from the Monitoring the Future studies of 12th graders (1976-2013), 8th and 10th graders (1991-2013), and the American Freshman survey of entering college students (1966-2014). Although the majority of adolescents and emerging adults are still religiously involved, twice as many 12th graders and college students, and 20%-40% more 8th and 10th graders, never attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders and entering college students in the 2010s (vs. the 1960s-70s) give their religious affiliation as “none,” as do 40%-50% more 8th and 10th graders. Recent birth cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating. Thus, declines in religious orientation reach beyond affiliation to religious participation and religiosity, suggesting a movement toward secularism among a growing minority. The declines are larger among girls, Whites, lower-SES individuals, and in the Northeastern U.S., very small among Blacks, and non-existent among political conservatives. Religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views, and lower social support. Overall, these results suggest that the lower religious orientation of Millennials is due to time period or generation, and not to age.

Concepts: Demographics, Religion, Meditation, Household income in the United States, Spirituality, Generation Y, Generation, Generation X

57

Sleep disturbances are most prevalent among older adults and often go untreated. Treatment options for sleep disturbances remain limited, and there is a need for community-accessible programs that can improve sleep.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Sleep, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Meditation, Buddhist meditation

53

Emerging evidence suggests that meditation engenders prosocial behaviors meant to benefit others. However, the robustness, underlying mechanisms, and potential scalability of such effects remain open to question. The current experiment employed an ecologically valid situation that exposed participants to a person in visible pain. Following three-week, mobile-app based training courses in mindfulness meditation or cognitive skills (i.e., an active control condition), participants arrived at a lab individually to complete purported measures of cognitive ability. Upon entering a public waiting area outside the lab that contained three chairs, participants seated themselves in the last remaining unoccupied chair; confederates occupied the other two. As the participant sat and waited, a third confederate using crutches and a large walking boot entered the waiting area while displaying discomfort. Compassionate responding was assessed by whether participants gave up their seat to allow the uncomfortable confederate to sit, thereby relieving her pain. Participants' levels of empathic accuracy was also assessed. As predicted, participants assigned to the mindfulness meditation condition gave up their seats more frequently than did those assigned to the active control group. In addition, empathic accuracy was not increased by mindfulness practice, suggesting that mindfulness-enhanced compassionate behavior does not stem from associated increases in the ability to decode the emotional experiences of others.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Empathy, Suffering, Meditation, Car seat, Compassion, SEAT

50

During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and “key to building more resilient soldiers.” Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed. Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging. Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.

Concepts: Present, Time, Scientific method, Future, Science, Empirical, Past, Meditation

40

In contemporary western societies stress is highly prevalent, therefore the need for stress-reducing methods is great. This randomized controlled trial compared the efficacy of self-help physical activity (PA), mindfulness meditation (MM), and heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) in reducing stress and its related symptoms. We randomly allocated 126 participants to PA, MM, or HRV-BF upon enrollment, of whom 76 agreed to participate. The interventions consisted of psycho-education and an introduction to the specific intervention techniques and 5 weeks of daily exercises at home. The PA exercises consisted of a vigorous-intensity activity of free choice. The MM exercises consisted of guided mindfulness meditation. The HRV-BF exercises consisted of slow breathing with a heart rate variability biofeedback device. Participants received daily reminders for their exercises and were contacted weekly to monitor their progress. They completed questionnaires prior to, directly after, and 6 weeks after the intervention. Results indicated an overall beneficial effect consisting of reduced stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and improved psychological well-being and sleep quality. No significant between-intervention effect was found, suggesting that PA, MM, and HRV-BF are equally effective in reducing stress and its related symptoms. These self-help interventions provide easily accessible help for people with stress complaints.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Randomized controlled trial, Redox, Effectiveness, Efficacy, Free will, Meditation, Mind-body interventions