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The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.

The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.
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<p>A number of books have explored the ways psychotherapy clients can benefit from learning and practicing mindfulness. This is the first volume to focus specifically on how mindfulness can deepen the therapeutic relationship. Grounded in research, chapters demonstrate how therapists' own mindfulness practice can help them to listen more attentively and be more fully present. Leading proponents of different treatment approaches—including behavioral, psychodynamic, and family systems perspectives—illustrate a variety of ways that mindfulness principles can complement standard techniques and improve outcomes by strengthening the connection between therapist and client. Also presented are practical strategies for integrating mindfulness into clinical training.</p>

<p>This study was designed to test the hypothesis that mindfulness involves sustained attention, attention switching, inhibition of elaborative processing and non-directed attention. Healthy adults were tested before and after random assignment to an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course (n = 39) or a wait-list control (n = 33). Testing included measures of sustained attention, attention switching, Stroop interference (as a measure of inhibition of elaborative processing), detection of objects in consistent or inconsistent scenes (as a measure of non-directed attention), as well as self-report measures of emotional well-being and mindfulness. Participation in the MBSR course was associated with significantly greater improvements in emotional well-being and mindfulness, but no improvements in attentional control relative to the control group. However, improvements in mindfulness after MBSR were correlated with improvements in object detection. We discuss the implications of these results as they relate to the role of attention in mindfulness. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Ltd.</p>

Objective There is a growing scientific interest in mindfulness meditation (MM), yet its underlying neurophysiological mechanism is still uncertain. We investigated whether MM affects self-referential processing, associated with default mode network (DMN), either as short (state) – or long-term (trait) effects. Methods Three levels of MM expertise were compared with controls (n = 12 each) by electroencephalography (EEG). Results DMN deactivation was identified during the transition from resting state to a time production task, as lower gamma (25–45 Hz) power over frontal and midline regions. MM practitioners exhibited a trait lower frontal gamma activity, related to narrative self-reference and DMN activity, as well as producing longer durations, these being negatively correlated with frontal gamma activity. Additionally, we found state increases in posterior gamma power, suggesting increased attention and sensory awareness. MM proficiency did not affect the results. Conclusions Gamma power over frontal midline areas reflects DMN activity. MM practitioners exhibit lower trait frontal gamma activity, as well as a state and trait increases in posterior gamma power, irrespective of practice proficiency. Significance First, the DMN can be studied non-invasively by EEG. Second, MM induces from the early stages of practice neuroplasticity in self-referential and attentional networks.

In theory, mindfulness has a role to play in resolving intercultural conflicts. This suggestion rests upon the relatively untested presumption that mindfulness operates similarly across cultures. In a test of this presumption, university students from two countries that are often in conflict at the governmental level, Iran (N=723) and the United States (N=900), responded to the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Brown and Ryan Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(4):822-848, 2003), along with an array of other psychological measures. This Mindfulness Scale displayed structural complexities in both societies, but a measurement invariant subscale was nevertheless identified. Similar cross-cultural evidence of concurrent validity was obtained in relationships with wide-ranging measures of adjustment. Nonsignificant linkages with Public Self-Consciousness and Self-Monitoring demonstrated discriminant validity in both societies. These data identified mindfulness as a cross-culturally similar psychological process that could plausibly have a role in resolving intercultural conflicts.
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This article presents a conceptual model for the mindfulness-based psychotherapeutic treatment of chronic pain. It describes the process of mindfulness meditation and places it in the context of a practical model for conceptualizing pain. It presents case vignettes on the phenomenology and treatment of chronic pain. Resources for mindfulness are presented.

Although research has found that long-term mindfulness meditation practice promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention, the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training have not been fully explored. We examined whether brief meditation training affects cognition and mood when compared to an active control group. After four sessions of either meditation training or listening to a recorded book, participants with no prior meditation experience were assessed with measures of mood, verbal fluency, visual coding, and working memory. Both interventions were effective at improving mood but only brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Our findings suggest that 4 days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.

Objective: ADHD is a childhood-onset psychiatric condition that often continues into adulthood. Stimulant medications are the mainstay of treatment; however, additional approaches are frequently desired. In recent years, mindfulness meditation has been proposed to improve attention, reduce stress, and improve mood. This study tests the feasibility of an 8-week mindfulness training program for adults and adolescents with ADHD. Method: Twenty-four adults and eight adolescents with ADHD enrolled in a feasibility study of an 8-week mindfulness training program. Results: The majority of participants completed the training and reported high satisfaction with the training. Pre—post improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms and test performance on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition were noted. Improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms were also observed. Conclusion: Mindfulness training is a feasible intervention in a subset of ADHD adults and adolescents and may improve behavioral and neurocognitive impairments. A controlled clinical study is warranted. (J. of Att. Dis. 2008; 11(6) 737-746)

Mindfulness training has had salutary effects with adult populations and it is seen as a potentially helpful to children’s development. How to implement mindfulness practices with young children is not yet clear; some meditation practices, like sitting still for long periods with internally-self-regulated focused attention, seem developmentally inappropriate. Montessori schooling is a 100-year-old system that naturally incorporates practices that align with mindfulness and are suited to very young children. Here I describe how several aspects of Montessori education, including privileging concentrated attention, attending to sensory experience, and engaging in practical work, parallel mindfulness practices. These aspects might be responsible for some of the socio-emotional and executive function benefits that have been associated with Montessori education, and they could be adapted to conventional classroom methods.
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<p>Interest in mindfulness and its enhancement has burgeoned in recent years. In this article, we discuss in detail the nature of mindfulness and its relation to other, established theories of attention and awareness in day-to-day life. We then examine theory and evidence for the role of mindfulness in curtailing negative functioning and enhancing positive outcomes in several important life domains, including mental health, physical health, behavioral regulation, and interpersonal relationships. The processes through which mindfulness is theorized to have its beneficial effects are then discussed, along with proposed directions for theoretical development and empirical research.</p>

This article discusses the results of three elementary school teachers’ feedback from a mindfulness-training program. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to what’s happening now without judgment. The training consisted of breathwork, bodyscan, movement, and sensorimotor activities. Results of interviews with the teachers revealed that teachers used the mindfulness skills to (a) aid in curriculum development and implementation, (b) deal with conflict and anxiety, (c) improve the quality of their personal lives, and (d) facilitate positive changes in the classroom.
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<p>We investigated the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training (CBT/MT) on attentional task performance in incarcerated adolescents. Attention is a cognitive system necessary for managing cognitive demands and regulating emotions. Yet persistent and intensive demands, such as those experienced during high-stress intervals like incarceration and the events leading to incarceration, may deplete attention resulting in cognitive failures, emotional disturbances, and impulsive behavior. We hypothesized that CBT/MT may mitigate these deleterious effects of high stress and protect against degradation in attention over the high-stress interval of incarceration. Using a quasi-experimental, group randomized controlled trial design, we randomly assigned dormitories of incarcerated youth, ages 16–18, to a CBT/MT intervention (youth n = 147) or an active control intervention (youth n = 117). Both arms received approximately 750 min of intervention in a small-group setting over a 3–5 week period. Youth in the CBT/MT arm also logged the amount of out-of-session time spent practicing MT exercises. The Attention Network Test was used to index attentional task performance at baseline and 4 months post-baseline. Overall, task performance degraded over time in all participants. The magnitude of performance degradation was significantly less in the CBT/MT vs. control arm. Further, within the CBT/MT arm, performance degraded over time in those with no outside-of-class practice time, but remained stable over time in those who practiced mindfulness exercises outside of the session meetings. Thus, these findings suggest that sufficient CBT/MT practice may protect against functional attentional impairments associated with high-stress intervals.</p>
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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 (ANT; Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz, & Posner, 2002). 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.

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.
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Studies have suggested that the default mode network is active during mind wandering, which is often experienced intermittently during sustained attention tasks. Conversely, an anticorrelated task-positive network is thought to subserve various forms of attentional processing. Understanding how these two systems work together is central for understanding many forms of optimal and sub-optimal task performance. Here we present a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations between mind wandering and attentional states derived from the practice of focused attention meditation. This model proposes four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. People who train in this style of meditation cultivate their abilities to monitor cognitive processes related to attention and distraction, making them well suited to report on these mental events. Fourteen meditation practitioners performed breath-focused meditation while undergoing fMRI scanning. When participants realized their mind had wandered, they pressed a button and returned their focus to the breath. The four intervals above were then constructed around these button presses. We hypothesized that periods of mind wandering would be associated with default mode activity, whereas cognitive processes engaged during awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention and sustained attention would engage attentional subnetworks. Analyses revealed activity in brain regions associated with the default mode during mind wandering, and in salience network regions during awareness of mind wandering. Elements of the executive network were active during shifting and sustained attention. Furthermore, activations during these cognitive phases were modulated by lifetime meditation experience. These findings support and extend theories about cognitive correlates of distributed brain networks.

Studies have suggested that the default mode network is active during mind wandering, which is often experienced intermittently during sustained attention tasks. Conversely, an anticorrelated task-positive network is thought to subserve various forms of attentional processing. Understanding how these two systems work together is central for understanding many forms of optimal and sub-optimal task performance. Here we present a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations between mind wandering and attentional states derived from the practice of focused attention meditation. This model proposes four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. People who train in this style of meditation cultivate their abilities to monitor cognitive processes related to attention and distraction, making them well suited to report on these mental events. Fourteen meditation practitioners performed breath-focused meditation while undergoing fMRI scanning. When participants realized their mind had wandered, they pressed a button and returned their focus to the breath. The four intervals above were then constructed around these button presses. We hypothesized that periods of mind wandering would be associated with default mode activity, whereas cognitive processes engaged during awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention and sustained attention would engage attentional subnetworks. Analyses revealed activity in brain regions associated with the default mode during mind wandering, and in salience network regions during awareness of mind wandering. Elements of the executive network were active during shifting and sustained attention. Furthermore, activations during these cognitive phases were modulated by lifetime meditation experience. These findings support and extend theories about cognitive correlates of distributed brain networks.
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Although there is much evidence demonstrating muscle tension changes during mental work, there are few data concerning muscle tension patterns during effortful attention to simple sensory stimuli. In the present study, sensory attention was evoked by a pitch discrimination task at three levels of difficulty, with a digit retention task administered for comparison. Twenty-four females each performed both tasks at all levels of difficulty, while the EKG, and the corrugator supercilii, frontalis, lip, jaw, chin, and forearm area EMG were recorded. As expected, heart rate decreased significantly with increasing difficulty of the pitch task. A pattern of facial EMG responses accompanied the pitch task, which included significant increases in corrugator and frontalis, and decreases in the jaw as a function of difficulty, and time within trials. The tension pattern observed during sensory intake is discussed in terms of its relation to emotional expressions and motor theories of attention.
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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.
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Meditation refers to a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory practices, which can be classified into two main styles – focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) – involving different attentional, cognitive monitoring and awareness processes. In a functional magnetic resonance study we originally characterized and contrasted FA and OM meditation forms within the same experiment, by an integrated FA–OM design. Theravada Buddhist monks, expert in both FA and OM meditation forms, and lay novices with 10 days of meditation practice, participated in the experiment. Our evidence suggests that expert meditators control cognitive engagement in conscious processing of sensory-related, thought and emotion contents, by massive self-regulation of fronto-parietal and insular areas in the left hemisphere, in a meditation state-dependent fashion. We also found that anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices play antagonist roles in the executive control of the attention setting in meditation tasks. Our findings resolve the controversy between the hypothesis that meditative states are associated to transient hypofrontality or deactivation of executive brain areas, and evidence about the activation of executive brain areas in meditation. Finally, our study suggests that a functional reorganization of brain activity patterns for focused attention and cognitive monitoring takes place with mental practice, and that meditation-related neuroplasticity is crucially associated to a functional reorganization of activity patterns in prefrontal cortex and in the insula.

The scientific interest in meditation and mindfulness practice has recently seen an unprecedented surge. After an initial phase of presenting beneficial effects of mindfulness practice in various domains, research is now seeking to unravel the underlying psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms. Advances in understanding these processes are required for improving and fine-tuning mindfulness-based interventions that target specific conditions such as eating disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. This review presents a theoretical framework that emphasizes the central role of attentional control mechanisms in the development of mindfulness skills. It discusses the phenomenological level of experience during meditation, the different attentional functions that are involved, and relates these to the brain networks that subserve these functions. On the basis of currently available empirical evidence specific processes as to how attention exerts its positive influence are considered and it is concluded that meditation practice appears to positively impact attentional functions by improving resource allocation processes. As a result, attentional resources are allocated more fully during early processing phases which subsequently enhance further processing. Neural changes resulting from a pure form of mindfulness practice that is central to most mindfulness programs are considered from the perspective that they constitute a useful reference point for future research. Furthermore, possible interrelations between the improvement of attentional control and emotion regulation skills are discussed.

Recent theoretical and empirical work in cognitive science and neuroscience is brought into contact with the concept of the flow experience. After a brief exposition of brain function, the explicit-implicit distinction is applied to the effortless information processing that is so characteristic of the flow state. The explicit system is associated with the higher cognitive functions of the frontal lobe and medial temporal lobe structures and has evolved to increase cognitive flexibility. In contrast, the implicit system is associated with the skill-based knowledge supported primarily by the basal ganglia and has the advantage of being more efficient. From the analysis of this flexibility/efficiency trade-off emerges a thesis that identifies the flow state as a period during which a highly practiced skill that is represented in the implicit system's knowledge base is implemented without interference from the explicit system. It is proposed that a necessary prerequisite to the experience of flow is a state of transient hypofrontality that enables the temporary suppression of the analytical and meta-conscious capacities of the explicit system. Examining sensory-motor integration skills that seem to typify flow such as athletic performance, writing, and free-jazz improvisation, the new framework clarifies how this concept relates to creativity and opens new avenues of research.

In this article, the authors elaborate on 3 ideas advanced in P. Rozin and A. B. Cohen's (2003) innovative study of facial expression. Taking a cue from their discovery of new expressive behaviors (e.g., the narrowed eyebrows), the authors review recent studies showing that emotions are conveyed in more channels than usually studied, including posture, gaze patterns, voice, and touch. Building on their claim that confusion has a distinct display, the authors review evidence showing distinct displays for 3 self-conscious emotions (embarrassment, shame, and pride), 5 positive emotions (amusement, desire, happiness, love, interest), and sympathy and compassion. Finally, the authors offer a functional definition of emotion to integrate these findings on "new" displays and emotions.
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