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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Neurochemistry of meditation.

Neurochemistry of meditation.

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:22 am

I've asked a similar question before on another forum, but did not receive a very satisfying response.

Does anyone have any idea what goes on in the brain when one meditates? Has there been any science published that I might refer to?

:anjali:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Jack » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:33 am

Moog wrote:I've asked a similar question before on another forum, but did not receive a very satisfying response.

Does anyone have any idea what goes on in the brain when one meditates? Has there been any science published that I might refer to?

:anjali:

====
I suggest you read the book Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman. There is a lot in it about this. If I remember correctly, one experiment was on a monk who was able to switch meditation methods instantly. He went through 8 different meditation methods with about 5 minutes for each meditation. Brain waves showed different effects on the brain with each method.
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Dmytro » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:51 am

Hi Moog,

There's a lot of research on this topic, I think you'll find useful the links:

http://dhamma.ru/forum/index.php?topic= ... 30#msg8130

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moggalana » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:40 am

A lot of EEG and neuroimaging (mainly MRT and fMRT) studies have been done. One of the most active group are the people around Richard Davidson (http://www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/) but it's a rapidly growing field of research with new research centers popping up everywhere.

I haven't come across studies that investigated the neurochemistry specifically but Leigh Brasington updated his Jhana webpage recently with a tentative hypothesis of how the jhana factors might interact with neurotransmitters: http://www.leighb.com/jhananeuro.htm
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:20 pm

Cool, you guys are awesome. Many thanks!

:anjali:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:59 pm

You can always get the latest by checking out sciencedaily.com http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=meditation
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Calahand » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:46 pm

Moog wrote:I've asked a similar question before on another forum, but did not receive a very satisfying response.

Does anyone have any idea what goes on in the brain when one meditates? Has there been any science published that I might refer to?

:anjali:


The prefrontal cortex is particularly well developed in meditators... it is the region of the brain that allows us to rise above urges like sex, things like violence etc. There was a psychiatrist who was telling me that there was evidence that meditators increase connections in the frontal cortex, but I can't find that study anywhere.
I found this though... enjoy

"Stress Management as a Treatment Option
There has been little investigation of effective stress management techniques for children with ADHD. Most research on ADHD and stress management focuses on parents and their interaction with the child. One study of a stress management program for ADHD children examined its effectiveness in improving self-concept, locus of control, and acquisition of appropriate coping strategies. The study compared a therapist-led, group, stress management program; stress-management techniques taught by the parents using provided workbook and videotapes; and a control group with no intervention. In acquisition of coping skills, there were no significant changes in any of the three groups. Children in the therapist-led group did report more appropriate coping strategies (Gonzalez, 2002).

Meditation

Meditation is becoming common as a means of coping with stress and improving psychosocial factors. Although there are many forms of meditation, researchers generally classify them into two categories: techniques of concentration or techniques of contemplation (Shapiro, 1982). Each of these techniques uses different processes, and thus has different effects (Orme-Johnson, & Walton, 1998). In meditation practices involving concentration, such as Zen meditation, the practitioner focuses on something specific such as an event, image, or sound, trying to direct all of his or her attention to a single focal point. Contemplative techniques include mindfulness meditation practices, a secularized version of Vipassana or Insight meditation. The goal is to be aware of any and all thoughts and sensations while trying not to judge or become actively involved in the thoughts (Shapiro, 1982). This type of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) technique can be practiced throughout daily activity.

Coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy, MBSR treatments have been studied for depression relapse, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety disorders (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Recent research of a MBSR technique showed decreases in perceived stress and symptoms among a clinical population with stress-related problems, illness, anxiety, and chronic pain (Carmody & Baer, 2007).

There is a growing body of research on the beneficial effects of meditation not only as a stress-coping mechanism, but also in improving brain function. Research suggests that meditation can change neural activity (Newberg et al., 2006), alter dopamine levels in the brain (Jevning, 1978; Kjaer et al., 2002) and change EEG patterns (Travis, 2001; Travis & Wallace, 1999).

Researchers are just beginning to explore the use of meditation for attention and ADHD symptoms. A study of Sahaja Yoga meditation as an intensive family treatment program with children with ADHD found improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem, and relationships with their families (Harison, Manocha, & Rubia, 2004). In non-ADHD subjects Mha, Krompinger and Baine (2007) found that MBSR may improve attention-related neural responses. A recent feasibility study of ADHD adults and adolescents using MBSR noted improvements in ADHD symptoms based on self-report and improvements on performance measures of attention (Zylowska, et al., 2007). "

This is from : http://cie.asu.edu/volume10/number2/#Results
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:22 pm

That's incredibly interesting to me right now, Calahand. I suspect that I have undiagnosed ADHD/executive function disorder and am mildly autistic. This suggests that I have an underdeveloped fore brain. I feel that meditation practice has been very useful to me in alleviating a lot of these problems. I would like to help spread the good word about meditation to other folk like myself, and cogent scientific research is always very useful.

I am very grateful to you all for the information you point me to.

The study there mentions 'transcendental meditation'. What exactly is this kind of meditation?

:anjali:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:07 am

Moog wrote:The study there mentions 'transcendental meditation'. What exactly is this kind of meditation?
:anjali:

"Transcendental Meditation" (aka TM) is a secularised form of Hindu mantra meditation popularised by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi forty years ago. If you are old enough you may vaguely remember his celebrity devotees included at least one of the Beatles.
Google tells me it's still active: http://tm.org.au/. Wikipedia gives a more objective account at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_Meditation.
:namaste:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Calahand » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:50 am

Moog wrote:That's incredibly interesting to me right now, Calahand. I suspect that I have undiagnosed ADHD/executive function disorder and am mildly autistic. This suggests that I have an underdeveloped fore brain. I feel that meditation practice has been very useful to me in alleviating a lot of these problems. I would like to help spread the good word about meditation to other folk like myself, and cogent scientific research is always very useful.

I am very grateful to you all for the information you point me to.

The study there mentions 'transcendental meditation'. What exactly is this kind of meditation?

:anjali:


I know that transcendental meditation is similar to concentration meditation excercises that are used in buddhist practice. Any type of meditation or contemplative practice is beneficial i think whether hindu, buddhist or whatever. Good luck! :namaste:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby andre9999 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:19 pm

Moog wrote:Does anyone have any idea what goes on in the brain when one meditates?


So far as I can tell there's a tiny person in there who won't shut up. :)
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Anicca » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:25 pm

andrer9999 wrote:So far as I can tell there's a tiny person in there who won't shut up.

I've got a rather large rabble rousing crowd. :tongue:

metta
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:56 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Moog wrote:The study there mentions 'transcendental meditation'. What exactly is this kind of meditation?
:anjali:

"Transcendental Meditation" (aka TM) is a secularised form of Hindu mantra meditation popularised by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi forty years ago. If you are old enough you may vaguely remember his celebrity devotees included at least one of the Beatles.
Google tells me it's still active: http://tm.org.au/. Wikipedia gives a more objective account at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_Meditation.
:namaste:
Kim


Actually, I think I recall that David Lynch was into this?
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:58 pm

Anicca wrote:
andrer9999 wrote:So far as I can tell there's a tiny person in there who won't shut up.

I've got a rather large rabble rousing crowd. :tongue:

metta


Ha, yes, more like a mob of lunatics in mine :lol:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby unspoken » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:25 am

Calahand wrote:The prefrontal cortex is particularly well developed in meditators... it is the region of the brain that allows us to rise above urges like sex, things like violence etc. There was a psychiatrist who was telling me that there was evidence that meditators increase connections in the frontal cortex, but I can't find that study anywhere



No wonder lately after I meditate I can feel like my brain is rushing with blood. And it's pumping hard. :meditate:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:22 pm

unspoken wrote:
Calahand wrote:The prefrontal cortex is particularly well developed in meditators... it is the region of the brain that allows us to rise above urges like sex, things like violence etc. There was a psychiatrist who was telling me that there was evidence that meditators increase connections in the frontal cortex, but I can't find that study anywhere



No wonder lately after I meditate I can feel like my brain is rushing with blood. And it's pumping hard. :meditate:


Hmm, could this account for this?
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:22 pm

Calahand wrote:The prefrontal cortex is particularly well developed in meditators... it is the region of the brain that allows us to rise above urges like sex, things like violence etc. There was a psychiatrist who was telling me that there was evidence that meditators increase connections in the frontal cortex, but I can't find that study anywhere.


See:
http://dhamma.ru/forum/index.php?topic= ... 21#msg5621
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Nibbida » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:55 pm

Here is one of the most comprehensive reviews, which is very technical if you're not a specialist:

http://www.wisebrain.org/papers/MedStatesTraitsNeuroimaging.pdf

In terms of electrical activity (EEG):
1. Increased alpha, more towards the frontal lobes
2. Increased theta, especially in frontal midline areas
3. More synchrony in the alpha and theta ranges, meaning various areas of the brain fire electrical signals in sync with each other
4. Increased gamma, probably corresponding to feelings of joy (piti)

What's interesting is elevated alpha and theta would be considered abnormal and pathological in most people. They usually happen when there's a mental or neurological illness. However, certain kinds of alpha and theta are are related to awareness and concentration, and this is what meditation seems to strengthen (i.e. not all alpha and theta waves are created equal.)

Look at this picture:

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 11 17.46.jpg
ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 11 17.46.jpg (86.83 KiB) Viewed 1559 times


1. Long term mediators (LTM) had more frontal theta and alpha compared to short term meditators
2. The amount of frontal theta correlated with greater bliss and less thoughts popping up.


Anatomically:
1. Thicker prefrontal cortex (greater use of any brain area tends to thicken it)
2. Lack of normal age-related atrophy in elderly meditators (brain stayed thicker)
3. Some other brain areas (this area is exploding with new studies)
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:26 am

At the opposite techniciality-extreme from Nibbida's recommendation is an article in the most recent New Scientist. It gives an overview, mentioning a lot of different research groups, and basically says, 'Yes, meditation works and can make your life better,' which is at least a better conclusion than the alternative, 'No, it's all hokum,' that we used to see.
:namaste:
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Nibbida » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:30 pm

Hee hee. Well, he did ask what was happening in the brain...

It is the hope of some people, including the Dalai Lama, that understanding the neurobiology of meditation and enlightenment will help us find ways to facilitate the process. Of course it wouldn't do the work for a person, but it might be like working out in a gym in order to facilitate one's tennis game. You still need to practice tennis.

In this video Shinzen Young contemplates how churning out millions of stream-enterers or even Arahants could affect the planet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBDqTY1W8Dk

What would such a world look like?
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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