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Sep 20, 2007

Psychophysiological effects of breathing instructions for stress management

Psychophysiological effects of breathing instructions for stress management.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2007 Jun;32(2):89-98

Authors: Conrad A, Müller A, Doberenz S, Kim S, Meuret AE, Wollburg E, Roth WT

Stressed and tense individuals often are recommended to change the way they breathe. However, psychophysiological effects of breathing instructions on respiration are rarely measured. We tested the immediate effects of short and simple breathing instructions in 13 people seeking treatment for panic disorder, 15 people complaining of daily tension, and 15 controls. Participants underwent a 3-hour laboratory session during which instructions to direct attention to breathing and anti-hyperventilation instructions to breathe more slowly, shallowly, or both were given. Respiratory, cardiac, and electrodermal measures were recorded. The anti-hyperventilation instructions failed to raise end-tidal pCO(2) above initial baseline levels for any of the groups because changes in respiratory rate were compensated for by changes in tidal volume and vice versa. Paying attention to breathing significantly reduced respiratory rate and decreased tidal volume instability compared to the other instructions. Shallow breathing made all groups more anxious than did other instructions. Heart rate and skin conductance were not differentially affected by instructions. We conclude that simple and short instructions to alter breathing do not change respiratory or autonomic measures in the direction of relaxation, except for attention to breathing, which increases respiratory stability. To understand the results of breathing instructions for stress and anxiety management, respiration needs to be monitored physiologically.

Sep 06, 2007

Changes in heart rate variability during concentration meditation.

Changes in heart rate variability during concentration meditation.

Int J Cardiol. 2007 Aug 29;

Authors: Phongsuphap S, Pongsupap Y, Chandanamattha P, Lursinsap C

This study aims at investigating changes in heart rate variability (HRV) measured during meditation. The statistical and spectral measures of HRV from the RR intervals were analyzed. Results indicate that meditation may have different effects on health depending on frequency of the resonant peak that each meditator can achieve. The possible effects may concern resetting baroreflex sensitivity, increasing the parasympathetic tone, and improving efficiency of gas exchange in the lung.

Sep 05, 2007

Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus

Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved?

J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Jul-Aug;13(6):651-8

Authors: Chan D, Woollacott M

The present investigation examined the contributions of specific attentional networks to long-term trait effects of meditation. It was hypothesized that meditation could improve the efficiency of executive processing (inhibits prepotent/incorrect responses) or orientational processing (orients to specific objects in the attentional field). Participants (50 meditators and 10 controls) were given the Stroop (measures executive attention) and Global-Local Letters (measures orientational attention) tasks. Results showed that meditation experience was associated with reduced interference on the Stroop task (p < 0.03), in contrast with a lack of effect on interference in the Global-Local Letters task. This suggests that meditation produces long-term increases in the efficiency of the executive attentional network (anterior cingulate/prefrontal cortex) but no effect on the orientation network (parietal systems). The amount of time participants spent meditating each day, rather than the total number of hours of meditative practice over their lifetime, was negatively correlated with interference on the Stroop task (r = -0.31, p < 0.005).

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

J Anxiety Disord. 2007 Jul 22;

Authors: Evans S, Ferrando S, Findler M, Stowell C, Smart C, Haglin D

While cognitive behavior therapy has been found to be effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a significant percentage of patients struggle with residual symptoms. There is some conceptual basis for suggesting that cultivation of mindfulness may be helpful for people with GAD. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a group treatment derived from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues. MBSR uses training in mindfulness meditation as the core of the program. MBCT incorporates cognitive strategies and has been found effective in reducing relapse in patients with major depression (Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., Ridgeway, V., Soulsby, J., & Lau, M. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 6, 615-623). METHOD: Eligible subjects recruited to a major academic medical center participated in the group MBCT course and completed measures of anxiety, worry, depressive symptoms, mood states and mindful awareness in everyday life at baseline and end of treatment. RESULTS: Eleven subjects (six female and five male) with a mean age of 49 (range=36-72) met criteria and completed the study. There were significant reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms from baseline to end of treatment. CONCLUSION: MBCT may be an acceptable and potentially effective treatment for reducing anxiety and mood symptoms and increasing awareness of everyday experiences in patients with GAD. Future directions include development of a randomized clinical trial of MBCT for GAD.

Aug 04, 2007

Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention

Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention.

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2007 Jun;7(2):109-19

Authors: Jha AP, Krompinger J, Baime MJ

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test. Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.

Jul 29, 2007

Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation

Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation.

Neurobiol Aging. 2007 Jul 24;

Authors: Pagnoni G, Cekic M

Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging.

Jul 09, 2007

Postdoctoral Position in Theoretical Neuroscience at CNCR, Amsterdam

Via Neurobot 
Applications are invited for a 3-year postdoctoral research position in the Neuroinformatics Group of the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The position is funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Exact Sciences (EW).

Jul 06, 2007

Mind-body interventions for chronic pain in older adults: a structured review

Mind-body interventions for chronic pain in older adults: a structured review.

Pain Med. 2007 May;8(4):359-75

Authors: Morone NE, Greco CM

Study Design. We conducted a structured review of eight mind-body interventions for older adults with chronic nonmalignant pain. Objectives. To evaluate the feasibility, safety, and evidence for pain reduction in older adults with chronic nonmalignant pain in the following mind-body therapies: biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga. Methods. Relevant studies in the MEDLINE, PsycINFO, AMED, and CINAHL databases were located. A manual search of references from retrieved articles was also conducted. Of 381 articles retrieved through search strategies, 20 trials that included older adults with chronic pain were reviewed. Results. Fourteen articles included participants aged 50 years and above, while only two of these focused specifically on persons aged >/=65 years. An additional six articles included persons aged >/=50 years. Fourteen articles were controlled trials. There is some support for the efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation plus guided imagery for osteoarthritis pain. There is limited support for meditation and tai chi for improving function or coping in older adults with low back pain or osteoarthritis. In an uncontrolled biofeedback trial that stratified by age group, both older and younger adults had significant reductions in pain following the intervention. Several studies included older adults, but did not analyze benefits by age. Tai chi, yoga, hypnosis, and progressive muscle relaxation were significantly associated with pain reduction in these studies. Conclusion. The eight mind-body interventions reviewed are feasible in an older population. They are likely safe, but many of the therapies included modifications tailored for older adults. There is not yet sufficient evidence to conclude that these eight mind-body interventions reduce chronic nonmalignant pain in older adults. Further research should focus on larger, clinical trials of mind-body interventions to answer this question.

Jun 29, 2007

Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners

Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 27;

Authors: Brefczynski-Lewis JA, Lutz A, Schaefer HS, Levinson DB, Davidson RJ

Meditation refers to a family of mental training practices that are designed to familiarize the practitioner with specific types of mental processes. One of the most basic forms of meditation is concentration meditation, in which sustained attention is focused on an object such as a small visual stimulus or the breath. In age-matched participants, using functional MRI, we found that activation in a network of brain regions typically involved in sustained attention showed an inverted u-shaped curve in which expert meditators (EMs) with an average of 19,000 h of practice had more activation than novices, but EMs with an average of 44,000 h had less activation. In response to distracter sounds used to probe the meditation, EMs vs. novices had less brain activation in regions related to discursive thoughts and emotions and more activation in regions related to response inhibition and attention. Correlation with hours of practice suggests possible plasticity in these mechanisms.

Dec 13, 2006

Changes in p300 following two yoga-based relaxation techniques

Changes in p300 following two yoga-based relaxation techniques.

Int J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;116(12):1419-30

Authors: Sarang SP, Telles S

Cyclic meditation (CM) is a technique that combines "stimulating" and "calming" practices, based on a statement in ancient yoga texts suggesting that such a combination may be especially helpful to reach a state of mental equilibrium. The changes in the peak latency and peak amplitude of P300 auditory event-related potentials were studied before and after the practice of cyclic meditation compared to an equal duration of supine rest in 42 volunteers (group mean age +/- SD, 27 +/- 6.3 years), from Fz, Cz, and Pz electrode sites referenced to linked earlobes. The sessions were one day apart and the order was alternated. There was reduction in the peak latencies of P300 after cyclic meditation at Fz, Cz, and Pz compared to the "pre" values. A similar trend of reduction in P300 peak latencies at Fz, Cz, and Pz was also observed after supine rest, compared to the respective "pre" values, although the magnitude of change in each case was less after supine rest compared to after cyclic meditation. The P300 peak amplitudes after CM were higher at Fz, Cz, and Pz sites compared to the "pre" values. In contrast, no significant changes were observed in the P300 peak amplitudes at Fz, Cz, and Pz after supine rest compared to the respective "pre" state. The present results support the idea that "cyclic" meditation enhances cognitive processes underlying the generation of the P300.

Oct 14, 2006

Neuroscience Horizon conference


A one-day seminar to be held on Thursday 12 October 2006 at Cambridge University.

The Neuroscience Horizon conference will introduce a range of exciting research from the frontiers of this field. World leading academic and industry scientists and opinion leaders will detail the latest areas of research and the future trends. In common with other conferences in the Horizon series, the seminar will be followed by dinner in the elegant surroundings of New Hall. This event follows on from the success of the ‘Personalised Medicine’ Horizon Conference and promises to be indispensable for companies in this field.

For further information please contact Jo Ryan on +44 (0)1223 765404 or horizon@rsd.cam.ac.uk