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Meditation and neuroplasticity
November 16, 2004 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Meditation and neuroplasticity. A new study (PDF) describes the changes in the brains of Buddhist monks, using fMRI to scan their brains while they practice compassion meditation. The project was a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and the Shechen Monastery in Nepal.
posted by homunculus (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that's way cool. Thanks for the links.
posted by ehintz at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2004


I remember reading a book called Zen and the Brain. The book is not light reading, but it pretty much states the same thing that this study is saying, and did it about 4 years ago. At 1200 pages it's a hard read, but I thought it was worth it.
posted by daHIFI at 3:12 PM on November 16, 2004


I've read some of that book, but not the whole thing. It is quite a tome.

This kind of research kind ongoing. I found the emphasis on compassion meditation in this study interesting. I've tried to practice it, but I just end up feeling more bitter and cynical than usual.

Here are some previous posts.
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on November 16, 2004


You should be careful about getting too excited about a study that is presented as conference proceeding. The reviews for conference proceedings are nowhere near as rigorous as those required for a repuatable peer reviewed journal.

The research is basically a correlational study with a lot of control issues and a pretty weak theoretical framework.

I found the emphasis on compassion meditation in this study interesting.

Me too but for a different reason. They used three different meditative states in the study but only talk about one. That could either be because they have limited space, are holding back for another paper or most likely the other two states washed out...which raises a significant concern that the differences were cherry picked ( I haven't gone through the results with a fine tooth comb though because i don't have the time or inclination to get to worked up about the new phrenology of the MRI until they have cheap portable units i can use on strangers on the street).
posted by srboisvert at 3:48 PM on November 16, 2004


Thanks for the links. I have read the Dalai Lama courts scientists iin explaining the role of Mind. It is refreshing to see somebody fusing the secular and spiritual for what may lead to further unlocking the mysteries of the brain.

Does research like this help or hinder further consideration of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in prisons?
posted by infowar at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2004


You should be careful about getting too excited

I will maintain equanimity.
posted by homunculus at 4:21 PM on November 16, 2004


I found this study quite interesting. It shows what appears to be a clear expertise effect, as well as a learning effect at the level of neural activity. That being said, I'm concerned that srboisvert's comments above might unfairly criticize the research. While there are always grounds for debate in science, that debate must be informed. (full disclosure: I am a scientist working in the field of cognitive science, and I have some (limited) working familiarity with EEG research).

You should be careful about getting too excited about a study that is presented as conference proceeding. The reviews for conference proceedings are nowhere near as rigorous as those required for a repuatable peer reviewed journal.

This isn't an article from a conference proceeding: it's published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. This is a communicated article, so it may deserve criticism (peer review is sometimes a little different for PNAS) because of that, but it has been reviewed by well respected scientists.

[only one manipulation is presented] because they have limited space, are holding back for another paper or most likely the other two states washed out.

I would suspect the former two options, not the latter. Number of publications is an important criterion for advancement in academia, so most researchers produce multiple papers for any given study. There are also often word, content, or page limits on articles.

new phrenology of the MRI

It's an EEG study, not an fMRI study. Electroencephalography is hardly a phrenological science - it is much better at identifyig the time course of processing than the brain structure (or even regions) involved. Moreover, correlation of functional patterns in various tasks certainly doesn't amount to phrenology. Certainly, neuroscience can be theoretically reduced to this; however, this is not a necessary result or interpretation.

cheap portable units i can use on strangers on the street

But, of course, you would submit your data for careful anonymous peer review, right?
posted by iceberg273 at 4:34 PM on November 16, 2004


It's an EEG study, not an fMRI study.

Oops.
posted by homunculus at 5:25 PM on November 16, 2004


But, of course, you would submit your data for careful anonymous peer review, right?

I believe I just did and got schooled. Being unfamiliar with journal and too lazy to google I assumed that proceedings meant conference proceedings and I, after a cursory pdf reading, didn't remember that it was EEG instead of fMRI.

Clearly my EEG is showing a pattern of activity more closely resembling ms. pacman
posted by srboisvert at 5:32 PM on November 16, 2004


srboisvert: Plus the post was wrong in saying fMRI too. You had reason to be misled.
posted by abcde at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2004


Excellent post.
posted by four panels at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2004


Great post. Zenfilter. Thanks.
posted by Outlawyr at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2004


MettaFilter.
posted by homunculus at 3:56 PM on November 18, 2004


Here's a working link for the first article.
posted by homunculus at 4:59 PM on November 18, 2004


Gamma phase synchrony

Induced Gamma-Band Activity and Human Brain Function (PDF)
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on November 20, 2004


Meditation as Ethical Activity
posted by homunculus at 3:59 PM on November 26, 2004


Meditation study aims to leap over mental barriers

The Shamatha Project
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2004


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