Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brain structure and political bias

Politics can be a touchy topic, especially when it comes to neuroscience. Researchers who've dared to tackle questions about how people's political leanings might be reflected in the brain have often earned scoffs and scoldings from their colleagues. A provocative new study is likely to be no exception. It claims to find features of brain anatomy that differ between people who identify themselves as politically conservative or politically liberal.

Cognitive neuroscientist Ryota Kanai and colleagues at University College London recruited 90 student volunteers and had them rate their political philosophy on a five-point scale ranging from very liberal to very conservative. Then the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to get a look inside their brains. In a paper published online today in Current Biology, the team reports two main findings: political conservatives tend to have a larger right amygdala, a region involved in detecting threats and responding to fearful stimuli, whereas liberals tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, an area that becomes active in situations involving conflict or uncertainty.

There was considerable overlap though. When the researchers looked only at the brain scans, Kanai says they could predict who was liberal and who was conservative with about 75% accuracy—much better than a coin toss but probably not good enough for any high-tech campaign tactics.

Kanai is at pains to make clear that the findings don't mean political views are "hard-wired" into the brain. He acknowledges that the data don't prove that these neuroanatomical differences actually cause political differences, but he suspects that they might play a role. He says psychological studies suggest that conservatives are more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and disgust, whereas liberals are more tolerant of situations involving conflict and uncertainty. (To armchair psychologists, this might explain some stereotypical behavior, such as the spike in blood pressure a hard-core conservative might experience when Fox News plays a new recording from Osama bin Laden, or the half-hour it might take an Earth-loving liberal to decide whether to buy the organic apple flown in from Chile or the local apple treated with pesticides.) Kanai speculates that subtle size differences in the amygdala and anterior cingulate might predispose people to particular "cognitive styles or personality traits" that in turn make them gravitate toward a particular worldview.

"It's provocative," says social cognitive neuroscientist David Amodio of New York University. Amodio is no stranger to political neurocontroversy. A paper he published in Nature Neuroscience in 2007 resulted in some hyperbolic headlines and punditry in the mainstream media and a critical backlash from skeptical neuroscience bloggers. In that study, when Amodio and colleagues used electroencephalography to investigate brain activity, they found a correlation between greater activity in the anterior cingulate and political liberalism. The picture that emerges from that work, Kanai's study, and other research is that "even complex political views are probably rooted in more basic psychological and brain processes," Amodio says.

It's an appealing story and a topic worth investigating, says cognitive neuroscientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania. But there's plenty of reason to be cautious, she says. For one, it's not clear what a bigger amygdala—or a bigger anything in the brain—actually means in terms of brain function and behavior. The research, she says, is unclear and often contradictory on this point.

Another problem is that most brain regions have multiple functions, Farah says: "Who says fear is the only function of the amygdala?" She notes that this brain region also responds to sexually arousing images and pictures of happy faces, and one recent study found a correlation between amygdala volume and the size of people's social networks. Likewise, the anterior cingulate cortex has been implicated in a long list of cognitive functions. By picking and choosing from the previous studies, "they're indulging in a bit of just-so storytelling," Farah says.

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Lost Wittgenstein Archive

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paterson recommends

Valerio Magrelli
Gjertrud Schnackenberg The Throne of Labdacus, Two Tales of Clumsy
Michael Donaghy’s Collected Poems,
Kay Ryan
Anne Carson
Charles Wright’s Sestets
Mark Doty’s Theories and Apparitions
Paul Farley
Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers,
John Glenday

Muldoon Reads

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Books Im reading April 2011

Front Burner

Graven with Diamonds Nicky Shulman

When in Rome Matthew Sturgis

Out of Our Heads Alva Noe

Being No one, Going Nowhere

The Hidden Reality Brian Greene

Incognito, The hidden life of the Bran David Eagleman

In Rotation:

Abstracts from 'Special Issue on Anxiety (dedicated to the memory of Professor Blazej Szymura)'


This review treats individual differences in anxiety and coping from several perspectives. It starts with the argument that structural considerations (often linked to trait concepts) and processing considerations (often linked to situational demands and actual behavior) are not fundamentally in opposition, but that global and uncontextualized trait concepts (e.g., trait anxiety) require revision to incorporate cognitive–affective units such as appraisals, goals, or self-regulatory competencies (cf. Mischel, 2004). The article then presents a personality-oriented coping theory (the model of coping modes; MCM; [Hock and Krohne, 2004], [Krohne, 1993] and [Krohne, 2003]) which attempts to incorporate these units. The MCM distinguishes vigilant (uncertainty-oriented) and cognitively avoidant (arousal-oriented) coping processes and views them as dispositional preferences related to personality. Empirical evidence (based on cognitive-experimental designs in the fields of attentional orientation and the interpretation and retrieval of ambiguous and aversive information) is reviewed and supports central assumptions of the theory.


There has been substantial interest in the personality correlates of social anxiety, both at the higher order and lower order trait levels. We review this literature, focusing particularly on evidence for associations with neuroticism/negative emotionality (N/NE) and its facets; extraversion/positive emotionality (E/PE) and its facets; and several other specific traits (self-critical perfectionism, evaluation sensitivity, anxiety sensitivity, curiosity) with significant links to these domains. These results are interpreted within the larger context of the personality hierarchy whenever possible, so as to determine whether each trait appears to be (1) specifically associated with social anxiety or (2) non-specifically related to social anxiety due to overlap with other traits. We also discuss the specificity of social anxiety–trait relations vis-à-vis depression and other anxiety disorders. This review revealed that higher order E/PE, sociability, dominance, and the social concerns component of anxiety sensitivity are most specific to social anxiety, whereas other traits are shared with other disorders (primarily depression and GAD). Finally, we consider the subtypes of social anxiety (i.e., generalized and performance) and present some evidence for differential trait associations. We discuss the implications of these results for etiological issues, distinguishing social anxiety from depression and GAD, and future research directions in this area.

The etiology of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), including its high degree of comorbidity with major depressive disorder (MDD), remains a conceptual and clinical challenge. In this article, we discuss the relevance of regulatory focus theory, an influential theory of self-regulation, for understanding vulnerability to GAD as well as GAD/MDD comorbidity. The theory postulates two systems for pursuing desired end states: the promotion and prevention systems. Drawing upon studies documenting the affective and motivational consequences of failing to attain promotion vs. prevention goals, as well as the literature linking promotion failure with depression, we propose how dysfunction within the prevention system could lead to GAD – with, as well as without, MDD.
Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Self-regulation; Regulatory focus theory; Self-discrepancy theory; Comorbidity

There have been several theoretical attempts to explain the effects of anxiety on cognitive performance. According to attentional control theory, anxiety impairs the efficiency of two executive functions (the inhibition and shifting functions). Another major theoretical assumption is that anxiety impairs performance effectiveness (the quality of performance) to a lesser extent than processing efficiency (the relationship between performance effectiveness and effort or use of processing resources). However, there may be conditions (e.g., prior presentation of threat-related stimuli) in which that assumption is not applicable. The extensive recent research (including several cognitive neuroscience studies) of direct relevance to the theory is discussed, and suggestions are made for maximizing the value of future cognitive neuroscience research. Finally, attentional control theory is developed to explicate the relationship between anxiety and motivation. Implications for theoretical predictions and alternative theoretical accounts are discussed.

Although usually thought of as a problem in affect, anxiety, just as any other personality trait, may be conceptualized as a coherent patterning over time and space of affect, behavior, cognition, and desires (the ABCDs of personality). We use the ABCD framework in an analysis of anxiety as a personality trait and an emotional and behavioral state. We review the anxiety literature with particular emphasis upon the relationship between anxiety and the behavioral consequences of having strong avoidance goals. We show how a consideration of the patterning of the ABCDs over time allows for an integration of theories of state anxiety with those of trait anxiety and consider how a multilevel information processing framework may better situate anxiety in personality research.
Keywords: Anxiety; Affect; Behavior; Cognition; Desire; ABCD;

Friday, April 22, 2011

Painkillers and the Mind

From BBC

A patient's belief that a drug will not work can become a self fulfilling prophecy, according to researchers.

They showed the benefits of painkillers could be boosted or completely wiped out by manipulating expectations.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, also identifies the regions of the brain which are affected.

Experts said this could have important consequences for patient care and for testing new drugs.

Heat was applied to the legs of 22 patients, who were asked to report the level of pain on a scale of one to 100. They were also attached to an intravenous drip so drugs could be administered secretly.

The initial average pain rating was 66. Patients were then given a potent painkiller, remifentanil, without their knowledge and the pain score went down to 55.

They were then told they were being given a painkiller and the score went down to 39.

Then, without changing the dose, the patients were then told the painkiller had been withdrawn and to expect pain, and the score went up to 64.

So even though the patients were being given remifentanil, they were reporting the same level of pain as when they were getting no drugs at all.

Professor Irene Tracey, from Oxford University, told the BBC: "It's phenomenal, it's really cool. It's one of the best analgesics we have and the brain's influence can either vastly increase its effect, or completely remove it."

The study was conducted on healthy people who were subjected to pain for a short period of time. She said people with chronic conditions who had unsuccessfully tried many drugs for many years would have built up a much greater negative experience, which could impact on their future healthcare.

Professor Tracey said: "Doctors need more time for consultation and to investigate the cognitive side of illness, the focus is on physiology not the mind, which can be a real roadblock to treatment."

Brain scans during the experiment also showed which regions of the brain were affected.

The expectation of positive treatment was associated with activity in the cingulo-frontal and subcortical brain areas while the negative expectation led to increased activity in the hippocampus and the medial frontal cortex.

Professor Anthony Jones, Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Work from our own lab and those of others indicates that expectations are a key driver to pain perception and to placebo analgesic effects. So this provides further confirmation of that idea in relation to drug effects.

"This has been demonstrated previously in relation to nitrous oxide analgesic effects, but the current study provides good evidence that this phenomenon is not due to the subject saying what they think the investigator wants to hear."

The researchers also say clinical trials, which are used to determine the effectiveness of drugs, should be modified.

"Rather than seeking to control for psychological components, trial designs could be developed that aim to maximize the effects of therapeutic agents by integrating the effects of expectation and active treatment."

Meditation and distraction

The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.
“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”
Brain cells use particular frequencies or waves to regulate the flow of information in much the same way that radio stations broadcast at specific frequencies. One frequency, the alpha rhythm, is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight and sound in the brain’s outmost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.
Previous studies have suggested that attention can be used to regulate the alpha rhythm and, in turn, sensory perception. When an individual anticipates a touch, sight or sound, the focusing of attention toward the expected stimulus induces a lower alpha wave height in cortical cells that would handle the expected sensation, which actually “turns up the volume” of those cells. At the same time the height of the alpha wave in cells that would handle irrelevant or distracting information increases, turning the volume in those regions down. Because mindfulness meditation – in which practitioners direct nonjudgmental attention to their sensations, feelings and state of mind – has been associated with improved performance on attention-based tasks, the research team decided to investigate whether individuals trained in the practice also exhibited enhanced regulation of the timing and intensity of alpha rhythms.
The study tested 12 healthy volunteers with no previous experience in meditation. Half completed the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program developed at the University of Massachusetts. The other half were asked not to engage in any type of meditation during the study period. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), an imaging technique that detects the location of brain activity with extreme precision, the researchers measured participants’ alpha rhythms before, during and after the eight-week period. Specifically, they measured alpha rhythms in the brain area that processes signals from the left hand while participants were asked to direct their attention to either their left hand or left foot. Participants’ abilities to adjust the alpha rhythm in cortical cells associated with the hand, depending on where their attention was directed, were recorded during the milliseconds immediately after they received an attention cue.
Although all participants had showed some attention-related alpha rhythm changes at the beginning of the study, at the end of the eight weeks, those who completed the mindfulness meditation training made faster and significantly more pronounced attention-based adjustments to the alpha rhythm than the non-meditators did. “This result may explain reports that mindfulness meditation decreases pain perception,” says Kerr. “Enhanced ability to turn the alpha rhythm up or down could give practitioners’ greater ability to regulate pain sensation.”
The study also sheds light on how meditation may affect basic brain function, explains Stephanie Jones, PhD, of the Martinos Center, co-lead author of the paper. “Given what we know about how alpha waves arise from electrical currents in sensory cortical cells, these data suggest that mindfulness meditation practitioners can use the mind to enhance regulation of currents in targeted cortical cells. The implications extend far beyond meditation and give us clues about possible ways to help people better regulate a brain rhythm that is dysregulated in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.” Kerr is an instructor in Medicine and Jones an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

fMRI shows how mindfulness meditation changes decision-making process

If a friend or relative won $100 and then offered you a few dollars, would you accept this windfall? The logical answer would seem to be, sure, why not? “But human decision making does not always appear rational,” said Read Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
According to research conducted over the last three decades; only about one-fourth of us would say, “Sure. Thanks.” The rest would say, “But that’s not fair. You have lots. Why are you only giving me a few?” In fact, people will even turn down any reward rather than accept an ‘unfair’ share.
Unless they are Buddhist meditators, in which case – fair or not – more than half will take what is offered, according to new research by Ulrich Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech; Jonathan Downar, assistant professor with the Neuropsychiatry Clinic and the Centre for Addition and Mental Health at the University of Toronto; and Montague, published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.
Their research shows that Buddhist meditators use different areas of the brain than other people when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally. The meditators had trained their brains to function differently and make better choices in certain situations.
The research “highlights the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision making,” the researchers write.
The research came about when Montague wondered whether some people are capable of ignoring the social consideration of fairness and can appreciate a reward based on its intrinsic qualities alone. “That is,” he said, “can they uncouple emotional reaction from their actual behavior?”
Using computational and neuroimaging techniques, Montague studies the neurobiology of human social cognition and decision-making. He and his students recruited 26 Buddhist meditators and 40 control subjects for comparison and looked at their brain processes using functional MRI (fMRI) while the subjects played the “ultimatum game,” in which the first player propose how to divide a sum of money and the second can accept or reject the proposal.
The researchers hypothesized that “successful regulation of negative emotional reactions would lead to increased acceptance rates of unfair offers” by the meditators. The behavioral results confirmed the hypothesis.
But the neuroimaging results showed that Buddhist meditators engaged different parts of the brain than expected. Kirk, Downar, and Montague explained that “The anterior insula has previously been linked to the emotion of disgust, and plays a key role in marking social norm violations, rejection, betrayal, and mistrust. In previous studies of the ultimatum game, anterior insula activity was higher for unfair offers, and the strength of its activity predicted the likelihood of an offer being rejected. In the present study, this was true for controls. However, in meditators, the anterior insula showed no significant activation for unfair offers, and there was no significant relationship between anterior insula activity and offer rejection. Hence, meditators were able to uncouple the negative emotional response to an unfair offer, presumably by attending to internal bodily states (interoception) reflected by activity in the posterior insula.”
The researchers conclude, “Our results suggest that the lower-level interoceptive representation of the posterior insula is recruited based on individual trait levels in mindfulness. When assessing unfair offers, meditators seem to activate an almost entirely different network of brain areas than do normal controls. Controls draw upon areas involved in theory of mind, prospection, episodic memory, and fictive error. In contrast, meditators instead draw upon areas involved in interoception and attention to the present moment. …This study suggests that the trick may lie not in rational calculation, but in steering away from what-if scenarios, and concentrating on the interoceptive qualities that accompany any reward, no matter how small.”

Neuroscientists discover new ‘chemical pathway’ in the brain for stress

Wed Apr 20, 2011 20:47 from RSS 2.0 by University of Leicester

A team of neuroscientists at the University of Leicester, UK, in collaboration with researchers from Poland and Japan, has announced a breakthrough in the understanding of the ‘brain chemistry’ that triggers our response to highly stressful and traumatic events.
The discovery of a critical and previously unknown pathway in the brain that is linked to our response to stress is announced today in the journal Nature. The advance offers new hope for targeted treatment, or even prevention, of stress-related psychiatric disorders.
About 20% of the population experience some form of anxiety disorder at least once in their lives. The cumulative lifetime prevalence of all stress-related disorders is difficult to estimate but is probably higher than 30%.
Dr Robert Pawlak, from the University of Leicester who led the UK team, said: “Stress-related disorders affect a large percentage of the population and generate an enormous personal, social and economic impact. It was previously known that certain individuals are more susceptible to detrimental effects of stress than others. Although the majority of us experience traumatic events, only some develop stress-associated psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder. The reasons for this were not clear.”
Dr Pawlak added that a lack of correspondence between the commonness of exposure to psychological trauma and the development of pathological anxiety prompted the researchers to look for factors that may make some individuals more vulnerable to stress than others.
“We asked: What is the molecular basis of anxiety in response to noxious stimuli? How are stress-related environmental signals translated into proper behavioural responses? To investigate these problems we used a combination of genetic, molecular, electrophysiological and behavioural approaches. This resulted in the discovery of a critical, previously unknown pathway mediating anxiety in response to stress.”
The study found that the emotional centre of the brain – the amygdala – reacts to stress by increasing production of a protein called neuropsin. This triggers a series of chemical events which in turn cause the amygdala to increase its activity. As a consequence, a gene is turned on that determines the stress response at a cellular level.
“We then examined behavioural consequences of the above series of cellular events caused by stress in the amygdala,” said Dr Pawlak. “Studies in mice revealed that upon feeling stressed, they stayed away from zones in a maze where they felt unsafe. These were open and illuminated spaces they avoid when they are anxious.”
“However when the proteins produced by the amygdala were blocked – either pharmacologically or by gene therapy – the mice did not exhibit the same traits. The behavioural consequences of stress were no longer present. We conclude that the activity of neuropsin and its partners may determine vulnerability to stress.”
Neuropsin was previously discovered by Professor Sadao Shiosaka, a co-author of the paper. This research, for which the bioinformatics modelling was done by Professor Ryszard Przewlocki and his team, has for the first time characterized its mechanism of action in controlling anxiety in the amygdala.
The study took four years to complete, during which scientists from the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology collaborated with colleagues from the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester, the Department of Molecular Neuropharmacology, Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow, Poland and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. The work was supported by the European Union, the Medical Research Council and Medisearch – the Leicestershire Medical Research Foundation. The first author, Benjamin Attwood, sponsored by Medisearch, took 3 years off from his medical studies curriculum to complete the necessary experiments. He commented: “It has been a thoroughly absorbing project to uncover how our experiences can change the way we behave. Hopefully this will lead to help for people that have to live with the damaging consequences of traumatic experiences.”
Dr Pawlak added: “We are tremendously excited about these findings. We know that all members of the neuropsin pathway are present in the human brain. They may play a similar role in humans and further research will be necessary to examine the potential of intervention therapies for controlling stress-induced behaviours.”
“Although research is now needed to translate our findings to the clinical situation, our discovery opens new possibilities for prevention and treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Social Emotions

such as embarrasment, shame, pride, humiliation, need for praise, leadership, jealousy, in out group pride (nationalism), public anger, sense of injustice, etc all are likely to primarily belong or have their birth within those parts of the brain system that evolved while humanities culture was harem like as structured round an alfa male with reproductive rights (today, the vestige is in kingship and interest in power). They are drives and instincts, but when only marginally triggered and running in the background, they add flavour to moods, making them more complex. Given that they are largely redundant from the perspective of our social lives today, it makes sense to mitigate or reduce their influence on our daily lives. Hence the detachment espoused by so many religions and philosophies.

Zero Degrees of Empathy

Simon Baron Cohen

Guardian review by Dorothy Rowe 16 04 11

Developmental psychologists have shown that what interests newborn babies most is faces. [they] form a bond with a mothering figure. Out of this bond comes the skill of empathy. However, when babies have no opportunity to form this bond they do not develop the skill of empathy... My sister... had been very unlucky to be born to a mother who could not cope with the experience of childbirth, and who became angry and withdrawn for six months or more...other peoples behaviour was often a mystery to her'.

Someone else I know also has a sister whose mother suffered from post-natal depression and the sister does not find it easy to deal with people, far preferring the company of animals. She does exhibit symptoms that could be described on the autism spectrum.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poetry Code of Best Practice

Via Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vagus Nerve and Yoga

From New Scientist

'Imagine if there were a major highway into the brain that could be safely accessed from elsewhere in the body. That's what vagus nerve stimulation is tapping into.

The vagus nerve is a bundle of neurons connecting the brain to many of the major organs, with nerves running both from the organ to the brain and vice versa. It does a multitude of jobs, including helping to control heart rate, breathing and appetite.

It is possible to wrap electrodes around the nerve in the lower neck and connect these to a small power source implanted in the chest, programmed to turn on and off at regular intervals. Trial and error has shown that altering the frequency and timing of stimulation can affect the brain in different ways.

A stimulator made by US firm Cyberonics is approved in that country for treating severe forms of epilepsy and depression. However, exactly how it works and which parts of the brain it targets is still unclear.

As the Cyberonics device is commercially available and fairly easy to implant, it is being investigated for many different uses. Some people who have had a device implanted have lost weight as a side effect, possibly because stimulation is mimicking the normal messages from our gut to our brain that signal when we are full. Research on pigs published last year showed that vagus nerve stimulation stopped the animals overeating and even made them select healthy food options (Appetite, vol 55, p 245).

If the effects extend to people who are obese, vagus nerve stimulation would look a good option next to stomach stapling, as the operation to do this carries a 0.5 per cent risk of death.'

Yoga is a non intrusive way of stimulating vagus nerve...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Political views are reflected in brain structure

via kurzweil

April 8, 2011

Differences in political orientation are tied to differences in the structures of our brains, University College London researchers have found.

Individuals who call themselves liberal tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, while those who call themselves conservative have a larger amygdala, the researchers say. This is consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat.

“In principle, our research method can be applied to find brain structure differences in political dimensions other than the simplistic left- versus right-wingers,” says Ryota Kanai of the University College London.

However, he cautions that it’s “very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions. More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

Ref.: Ryota Kanai et al., Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults, April 7 online edition, Current Biology

meditation and pain

Demystifying meditation — brain imaging illustrates how meditation reduces pain
April 6, 2011 by Editor
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have shown that meditation produces a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.

Fifteen healthy volunteers (who had never meditated) attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique known as “focused attention.” This is a form of mindfulness meditation where people are taught to attend to the breath and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.

Both before and after meditation training, study participants’ brain activity was examined using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) to capture longer duration brain processes. During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device was placed on each participant’s right leg. This device heated a small area of their skin to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find painful, over a 5-minute period.

Scans taken after meditation training showed that the pain ratings for every participant were reduced.

At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is.

The research also showed that meditation increased brain activity in areas including the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and the orbito-frontal cortex, which shape how the brain builds an experience of pain from nerve signals from the body. The more these areas were activated by meditation, the more that pain was reduced.

The decreases ranged from 11 to 93 percent, which is a greater reduction in pain than with morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, says researcher Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.

Zeidan and colleagues believe that meditation has great potential for clinical use because so little training was required to produce such dramatic pain-relieving effects. “This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications,” he said.

Their work appears April 6 in The Journal of Neuroscience.
- - [Technorati] Poemanias Technorati cosmos for Poemanias Wed, 09 Mar 2005 09:48:55 GMT 474652 2 3 Technorati v1.0 - Technorati logo 60 - Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium: "Poemanias" ... Via Poemanias , I've found this tribute site to Michael Donaghy, surely one of the best poets of the late 20th century in English. There's video, audio, and links to poems and transcripts of talks. I met Michael only briefly ...
Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium View Technorati Cosmos
Mon, 07 Mar 2005 21:39:33 GMT 2005-03-07 20:34:58 GMT
- Silliman's Blog: "Edward Farrelly" ... Amanda Drew Joseph Duemer Cliff Duffy Jilly Dybka E Martin Edmond kari edwards Stuart Eglin AnnMarie Eldon Scott Esposito Steve Evans F Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof (Philly Artblog) Edward Farrelly Rona Fernandez Caterina Fake Ryan Fitzpatrick Jim Flanagan Flarf Debby Florence Juan Jose Flores Paul Ford William Fox Gina Franco Suzanne Frischkorn G Jeannine Hall Gailey C.P. ...
Silliman's Blog View Technorati Cosmos
Mon, 07 Mar 2005 15:48:43 GMT 2005-03-07 14:50:46 GMT