Meditation induces gene expression changes

December 5, 2013

Jill Sakai, Medical Xpress: With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.

A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels…

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Free the Mind examines whether mental issues can be treated with meditation instead of medication

August 8, 2013

Marielle Argueza, Monterey County Weekly:

America has become increasingly familiar with mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit disorder, especially since America’s occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Often, those who live with these disorders are prescribed medications to help them deal with everyday task like sleeping or paying attention. Free the Mind, a documentary by Phie Ambo, looks into Richard Davidson’s innovative new study in alternative methods of treating such conditions.

So what works better than Ambien and Ritalin in this day and age? Apparently, a couple of deep breaths and controlled meditation. Davidson is a professor of psychology and…

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Documentary shows meditation helps with ADHD and PTSD

Barb Turnbull, Toronto, A young boy is plagued by anxiety and ADHD and two soldiers suffer stress disorders after going to war.

What binds the three — and ultimately frees them — is mindfulness meditation.

The trio is followed in Free The Mind: Can You Rewire The Brain Just By Taking A Breath?, a documentary that follows the work of University of Wisconsin psychology professor Richard Davidson on children with ADHD and veterans with PTSD. It opens June 7 at The Bloor Cinema.

With his study of “contemplative neuroscience,” Davidson is trying to understand how the brain regulates emotions…

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No lotus position needed: Neuroscience pushes meditation into the mainstream

Jeff Strickler, Star Tribune: When the Rev. Ron Moor began meditating 30 years ago, he did so in secret.

“When I started, meditation was a dirty word,” said Moor, pastor of Spirit United Church in Minneapolis. “[Evangelist] Jimmy Swaggart called it ‘the work of the devil.’ Because of its basis in Eastern religions, fundamentalists considered it satanic. Now those same fundamentalists are embracing it. And every class I teach includes at least a brief meditation.”

The faith community isn’t alone in changing its attitude. Businesses, schools and hospitals not only have become more accepting of meditation, but many offer classes on it. Meditating has…

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Brain can be trained in compassion, study shows

Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion — the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that adults can be trained to be more compassionate. The report, published Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, investigates whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion.

“Our fundamental question was, ‘Can compassion be trained and learned in adults? Can we become more caring if we practice … Read more »

Review: ‘Free the Mind’ documentary finds hope in meditation

Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times: There’s something healing about simply watching “Free the Mind,” Danish filmmaker Phie Ambo’s gentle, compassionate documentary spotlighting the use of such drug-free options as meditation and mindfulness to treat anxiety and trauma.

Writer-director Ambo focuses on three main subjects: Will, an endearing 5-year-old with ADHD and a fear of elevators; Steve, an Afghanistan war veteran haunted by his stint as a military intelligence soldier and interrogator; and Rich, a former battalion leader in Iraq wracked by guilt and horrific memories of combat. Fueled by the subtle parallels between young Will and the adult Steve and Rich, the movie…

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Documentary film portrays UW–Madison mindfulness research

Alison DeShaw Rowe, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is the focus of the new documentary film, “Free the Mind,” which debuts in Madison tomorrow, May 15.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Phie Ambo, the film chronicles the life-changing experiences of combat veterans and children who took part in mindfulness-based research studies – focused on an enhanced and calm awareness of one’s physical and mental state – at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at the UW–Madison Waisman Center, led by psychology and psychiatry professor Richard Davidson.

CIHM’s “Kindness Curriculum” study…

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Professor profile: Richard Davidson, expert in meditation

March 11, 2013

Sam Cusick, The Daily Cardinal: While people have been meditating for centuries, one University of Wisconsin-Madison professor is working to scientifically prove meditation makes people happier.

Richard Davidson, a psychology professor at UW-Madison since 1984, also runs the university’s Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, which includes his research to incorporate the Dalai Lama’s theories on the healing powers of meditation into scientific research.

Davidson said he has been interested in this topic for many years, although he was initially hesitant to publicly express his interest, since many people did not feel it was “scientific research.” But, after meeting the Dalai Lama in 1992, Davidson said he…

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Exercising your brain may improve your life

February 10, 2013

Wynne Parry, LiveScience. Throughout life, even shortly before death, the brain can remodel itself, responding to a person’s experiences. This phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, offers a powerful tool to improve well-being, experts say.

“We now have evidence that engaging in pure mental training can induce changes not just in the function of the brain, but in the brain’s structure itself,” Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told an audience at the New York Academy of Sciences on Thursday (Feb. 6) evening.

The brain’s plasticity does change over time, Davidson pointed out. For instance, young children have an easier time learning a second language or a musical instrument…

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The Compassionate Brain: a free 8-session video interview series

January 25, 2013

compassionate brainI wanted to let you know about a free 8-session video interview series – The Compassionate Brain – hosted by Rick Hanson, PhD, through Sounds True.

The guests are (in order) Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dacher Keltner, Kelly McGonigal, Kristin Neff, and Jean Houston, with Rick offering a summing up in an eighth session. (Rick is a neuropsychologist, a regular contributor to Wildmind’s blog, and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.)

So far over 33,000 people have seen these free videos, which explore how to use the power of neuroplasticity—the mind changing the brain to transform the mind—to open the heart, build courage, find compassion, forgive … Read more »