Mindfulness For COINTELPRO Victims #7

Meditations as Biological Interventions

Various benefits of meditations were already known to Buddhist practitioners for over two thousand and five hundred years. However, for scientists, particulally those in the Western world, it was inconceivable that meditation can even change the structure of brain. Nonetheless, as already discussed, rapid development of brain-research technologies, such as PET, fMRI, and EEG, have helped identify which neural changes in brain meditation has enhanced. As a result, the fact was revealed that meditations can intervene with biological changes in the brain. In other words, the mind training changes the brain, which subsequently results in emotional and behavioral changes so that patients can correct maladaptive moods and behaviors. Moreover, with fMRI, reaserchers can observe how strongly one region in the brain is connected to another region functionally. These studies have helped understand the mechanism of various mental disorders.   
hippocampus

As a basic study on structural changes in the brain, there is a well-known brain-research of taxi drivers in London . Marguire (2000) and the other researchers found that posterior hippocampi of London taxi drivers are significantly larager than those of non-taxi drivers. Hippocampus in human brain is considered to be responsible for spatial memory and navigation ability. The researchers also found that Hippocampal volume positively correlated to the amount of time the subjects drove as a taxi driver. Thus, the resaerch suggests that structural cahnges in the brain occurrs in accordance with environmental demand.  (Recommended Video: Taxi Driver's Brains http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9JPkUE2IJw ) 
  On the other hand, Davidson (2012) researched a type of meditation so called “Loving-kindness meditation” (p. 218). This meditation is widely practiced among Buddhists to cultivate non-discriminatory compassion for themselves and others. Usually, meditators start with wishing their own happiness. For the next, they wish for happiness of people they like. Finally, they expand the range of empathy to people they hate. Davidson (2012) monitored and recorded the brain activity of the meditators measured with fMRI. He found that those who practiced loving-kindness meditation showed significant changes in brain activity, particularly in Amygdala (p.222). There are even more sensational findings -- for instance, by Lazer (2005) -- that the middle Prefrontal Cortex is physically thicker in mindfulness meditation practitioners. 

 Concerning depression, Davidson (2012) similarly used the brain-research technologies in order to analyze the onset of depression. He explains that depression is characterized as overactivitiy in specific regions in the frontal cortex (p.174). Regarding these studies, another neuroscientist, Mayberg found a fact that cognitive-based therapy muted over-activity in the Prefrontal Cortex (Mayberg et al, 2002). That is to say, psychological changes in mind affected biological changes in the brain. Prefrontal Cortex was supposed to initially control our cognition. However, it can be concluded from these research that the mind and the brain are constantly interacting with each other. 
depressed-vs-normal-brain-scan.jpg 
    Furthermore, Davidson (2012) points at the other character of depressed patients' brain. According to his study, the connectivity between the middle prefrontal gyrus and the neucleus accumbens dimished in dpressed patients. Strong connections between these two regions are necessary to sustain positive emotions, and disconnection of those is considered to cause vanishing of pleasure in short period in depressed patients (p.152).

 Based on a plenty of research like the ones shown above, mindfulness, as scientifically validated method, began to be incorporated into cognitive therapy in the Western world. This new style of therapy, so called, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), was named by Teasdale, one of the significant researchers in the study of cognitive therapy for depression (Teasdale, 2004). Nowadays, MBCT is acknowledged as the effective method of stress reducing and  depression treatment. Schwartz (2002), the author of the book “The Mind and The Brain,” describes this new trend as follows:

The will, it was becoming clear, has the power to change the brain—in OCD, in stroke, in Tourette’s, and now in depression—by activating adaptive circuitry. That a mental process alters circuits involved in these disorders offers dramatic examples of how the ways someone thinks about thoughts can effect plastic changes in the brain (p.250).

    Another neuropsychologist, named Rick Hanson (2009), also introduced in his book “Buddha’s Brain” the scientific evidence of biological changes caused by meditations (p. 85). For instance, he cites several research findings that exemplify biological changes in the brain as a result of meditation practice, namely: “Increases in size of gray matter in the insula (Hölzel et al, 2008), increases in the activation of the left frontal regions, which lifts mood” (Davidson, 2004), and so forth. In addition, Hanson (2009) lists some other biological changes enhanced by meditations, such as decreases in cortisol (stress hormone) level, and strengthening of the immune system (Tang et al, 2007).

 

References

 

Davidson, R. J. (January 01, 2004). Well-being and affective style: neural substrates and biobehavioural correlates. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 359, 1449, 1395-1411.

Davidson, R. J., & Begley, S. (2012). The emotional life of your brain: How its unique patterns affect the way you think, feel, and live--and how you can change them. New York: Hudson Street Press.

Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K., & Vaitl, D. (January 01, 2008). Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3, 1, 55-61.

Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2009). Buddha's brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., ... Fischl, B. (January 01, 2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 17, 1893-7.

Mayberg, H. S., Silva, J. A., Brannan, S. K., Tekell, J. L., Mahurin, R. K., McGinnis, S., & Jerabek, P. A. (January 01, 2002). The functional neuroanatomy of the placebo effect. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 5, 728-37.


Maguire, E. A., Gadian, D. G., Johnsrude, I. S., Good, C. D., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R. S., & Frith, C. D. (January 01, 2000). Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97, 8, 4398-403.

Schwartz, J., & Begley, S. (2002). The mind and the brain: Neuroplasticity and the power of mental force. New York: Regan Books/HarperCollins Publ.

Teasdale, J. D. et al. (January 01, 2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 1, 31-40.


Tang, Yi-Yuan, Ma, Yinghua, Wang, Junhong, Fan, Yaxin, Feng, Shigang, Lu, Qilin, Yu, Qingbao, ... Posner, Michael I. (n.d.). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. National Academy of Sciences.

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Author:yenu
The Writer of 『拝啓 ギャングストーカー犯罪者の皆様』(Dear COINTELPRO Criminals) and <集団ストーカーの死> The Death of Gangstalker; also Co-Editor of 「新しいタイプの人権侵害・暴力」 Unprecedented Human Rights Violation

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