Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meditation and Neuroscience

There is an increasing amount of research being done on the effects of meditation on the brain (see this article in Time on one recent application of this research). The following are a good sampling of some of that work. Some of them are a bit technical, but some of it should be understandable (particularly the videos).

Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness
Antoine Lutz, John D. Dunne, Richard J. Davidson

Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise
Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson

Long-term Meditators Self-induce High-amplitude Gamma Synchrony During Mental Practice
Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar, Nancy B. Rawlings, Matthieu Ricard, and Richard J. Davidson

Attention Regulation and Monitoring in Meditation
Antoine Lutz, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson

Neural Correlates of Attentional Expertise in Long-term Meditation Practitioners
J. A. Brefczynski-Lewis, A. Lutz, H. S. Schaefer, D. B. Levinson, and R. J. Davidson

Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation
Richard J. Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jessica Schumacher, Melissa Rosenkranz, Daniel Muller, Saki F. Santorelli, Ferris Urbanowski, Anne Harrington, Katherine Bonus, and John F. Sheridan

Daniel Goleman has written a more 'popular' piece on compassion meditation and happiness:

Finding Happiness: Cajole Your Brain to Lean to the Left

Two of the monks who have participated in Davidson and Goleman’s studies are Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (author of The Joy of Living and, most recently, Joyful Wisdom) and Matthieu Ricard (“the happiest man in the world” and author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill) and both are good authors to read up on. Ricard has a very good Google presentation: Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions for Authentic Happiness. I would also suggest Philippe Goldan’s Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation and Michael Spezio’s Mindfulness in the Brain. Finally, Richard Davidson has a lecture titled Be Happy Like a Monk (Part 1, Part 2, and Q&A).

Since I posted the entry on Zen Brain, the Upaya Institute and Zen Center has had a 7-part Science Meets Meditation series with Alan Wallace. I haven't had the chance to listen to them yet, but Wallace is a very familiar name in Ameican Buddhism, so it could be worthwhile.

The systematic research of the physical and psychological effects of meditation is currently on the uprise, allowing us to at least partially move beyond anecdotal evidence or traditional claims as to its effects.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin, thanks for the survey of books and scientists who are working in this important area that is only at its infancy. As a yoga teacher and writer, I'm trying to incorporate these insights of neuroscience and mindfulness into classes of both yoga and creative writing. It's very interesting how students respond. The language of neuroscience and biology enable some students to understand how their brains are working, which is in itself, a sign of changed brain function. It's such a slippery subject to write about as is mindfulness and yoga. Here are some books, you might want to add or consider. Daniel Siegel's The Developing Mind, (a interpersonal neurobiologist) who is doing some very interesting things at the Mind Sight Institute at UCLA. Also, Fransisco Verala,The Embodied Mind, Richard Freeman's CD Yoga Matrix, Arnold Model's The Imagination and the Meaningful Brain, and as philosophy student and lover of phenomenology you should look at Merleau Ponty's The Phenomenology of Perception.

    I'm trying to do workshops on yoga and neuroscience, but it's not so easy as these are vast fields of knowledge. here is my blog too which is similar to yours, I'll try to link yours to mine. thanks for your work. michael mccolly, www.michaelmccolly.vox.com