Science and Buddhism agree: there is no “you” there

June 26, 2017
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Lori Chandler, Big Think: Evan Thompson of the University of British Columbia has verified the Buddhist belief of anatta, or not-self. Neuroscience has been interested in Buddhism since the late 1980s, when the Mind and Life Institute was created by HH Dalai Lama and a team of scientists. The science that came out of those first studies gave validation to what monks have known for years — if you train your mind, you can change your brain. As neuroscience has begun studying the mind, they have looked to those who have mastered …

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Meditation and neuroscience: new wave of breakthroughs in research on meditative practices

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Koyama Tetsuya, Nippon.com: Zen, mindfulness, and meditation in general are believed to promote psychological and physical well-being. But why? An emerging generation of neuroscientists is fast unveiling the hidden workings of meditation.

Legs in tights, extending from leotards and terminating in pointe shoes, briskly cut through the air. Instructions are called out as the dancers, faces aglow, carry their arms in delicate arcs and place their feet in deliberate motions. Leading the ballet class at a dance studio in Tokyo is a 27-year-old woman whom we will call Murano Kozue. The students would …

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The eyes have it

May 2, 2017

As you’re reading these words, begin to notice your breathing. Don’t change anything, just letting your body breathe naturally.

  • Notice where the breathing is taking place. How much of the movement is in the chest, and how much is in the abdomen?
  • Notice the rate of your breathing.
  • Notice how deep or shallow your breathing is.
  • Notice how you feel.

Now continue to notice these things, but with one change:

For a minute or two, stop focusing on the individual words, but relax your gaze and allow yourself to take in the whole screen, and then everything around the screen, right up to the periphery of your visual field.

Now that you’re back …

You … Read more »

Meditation helps tame the brain’s emotional response

October 5, 2016
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Alice G. Walton, Forbes: Of all the reasons people have for trying meditation, being less emotionally reactive is usually pretty high up. “Being mindful,” or “being zen,” is synonymous these days with rolling with the punches, and being non-reactive (or less reactive). And there’s definitely something to it: Neuroscience is starting to back up the subjective emotional changes we notice by illustrating what’s going on in the brain when people are confronted with stressors. A new study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience finds that people who naturally lack mindfulness can achieve at …

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Mindfulness meditation uses distinct neural pathways to reduce pain better than placebo

August 24, 2016
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Thomas Rosenthal, Pain Medicine News: Recent research showed that mindfulness meditation is significantly more effective at reducing pain intensity and pain unpleasantness than placebo analgesia, sham mindfulness meditation and other cognitive-based approaches by using distinct neural mechanisms (J Neurosci 2015;35:15307-15325).

“This study is the first to demonstrate that mindfulness-related pain relief is mechanistically distinct from placebo analgesia,” the researchers wrote. “The elucidation of this distinction confirms the existence of multiple, cognitively driven, supraspinal mechanisms for pain modulation.” Specifically, mindfulness meditation–induced pain relief was associated with greater neural activation in higher-order …

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The neuroscience of suffering – and its end

July 14, 2016
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Jeff Warren, Psychology Tomorrow Magazine: It was 1972, and Gary Weber, a 29-year old materials science PhD student at Penn State University, had a problem with his brain. It kept generating thoughts! – continuously, oppressively – a stream of neurotic concerns about his life, his studies, whatever. While most human beings would consider this par for the course, par for the human condition (cogito ergo sum), Weber wouldn’t accept it. He was a scientist, a systematizer, a process guy. He liked to figure out how things worked, and how they could be tweaked …

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People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain

June 29, 2016
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Click here for Mindfulness and the Brain: A Professional Training in the Science and Practice of Meditative Awareness, by Jack Kornfield and Daniel J. Siegel
Clare Wilson, New Scientist: People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain activity – or so a new take on a classic “free will” experiment suggests.

The results hint that the feeling of conscious control over our actions can vary – and provide more clues to understanding the complex nature of free will.

The famous experiment that challenged our notions of free will was first done in 1983 by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet. It involved measuring electrical activity in someone’s brain …

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The wake-up call that transformed neuroscientist Richard Davidson’s life

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Rebecca Shapiro, Huffington Post: Richard Davidson had been studying the brain for more than a decade when he was asked a question that quite literally changed his life.

“Why have you been using the tools of modern neuroscience just to study anxiety and stress and fear and depression?” Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, asked the neuroscientist in 1992. “Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?”

The question, which Davidson described as “a total wake-up call,” caused him to refocus his research. One of the first …

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Schools combine meditation and brain science to help combat discipline problems

April 7, 2016
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Shaina Cavazos, Chalkbeat Indiana: It was the Friday morning before spring break, and Deanna Nibarger’s fifth-graders were noisily chatting and enjoying their breakfast of milk, granola bars and raisins when a woman’s voice crackled over the school intercom:

“Sit up straight and close your eyes,” the woman on the intercom said.

The room immediately went silent as the woman’s command was followed by a series of short, high-pitched “dings,” as if someone were hitting a key on a metal xylophone and letting the sound reverberate.

A trance settled over the class …

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Brain changes seen in veterans with PTSD after mindfulness training

April 4, 2016
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Like an endlessly repeating video loop, horrible memories and thoughts can keep playing over and over in the minds of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. They intrude at the quietest moments, and don’t seem to have an off switch.

But a new study in veterans with PTSD shows the promise of mindfulness training for enhancing the ability to manage those thoughts if they come up, and not get “stuck”. Even more surprising, it actually shows the veterans’ brains changed — in ways that may help them find their own off switch for that endless loop.

The findings, published in Depression and Anxiety … Read more »