OBJECTIVE: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees. METHODS: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. RESULTS: We report for the first time significant increases in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. We also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided activation predicted the magnitude of antibody titer rise to the vaccine. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
Concepts develop for many aspects of experience, including abstract internal states and abstract social activities that do not refer to concrete entities in the world. The current study assessed the hypothesis that, like concrete concepts, distributed neural patterns of relevant nonlinguistic semantic content represent the meanings of abstract concepts. In a novel neuroimaging paradigm, participants processed two abstract concepts (convince, arithmetic) and two concrete concepts (rolling, red) deeply and repeatedly during a concept-scene matching task that grounded each concept in typical contexts. Using a catch trial design, neural activity associated with each concept word was separated from neural activity associated with subsequent visual scenes to assess activations underlying the detailed semantics of each concept. We predicted that brain regions underlying mentalizing and social cognition (e.g., medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus) would become active to represent semantic content central to convince, whereas brain regions underlying numerical cognition (e.g., bilateral intraparietal sulcus) would become active to represent semantic content central to arithmetic. The results supported these predictions, suggesting that the meanings of abstract concepts arise from distributed neural systems that represent concept-specific content.
In a recent neuroimaging study of macaque monkeys, Gil-da-Costa and colleagues reported that a distributed circuit of modality-specific properties represents macaques' conceptual knowledge of social situations. The circuit identified shows striking similarities to analogous circuits in humans that represent conceptual knowledge. This parallel suggests that a common architecture underlies the conceptual systems of different species, although with additional systems extending human conceptual abilities significantly.
OBJECTIVE: To examine yoga's effects on inner-city children's well-being. METHODS: This pilot study compared fourth- and fifth-grade students at 2 after-school programs in Bronx, New York. One program offered yoga 1 hour per week for 12 weeks (yoga) and the other program (non-yoga) did not. Preintervention and postintervention emotional well-being was assessed by Harter's Global Self-Worth and Physical Appearance subscales, which were the study's primary outcome measures. Secondary outcomes included other measures of emotional well-being assessed by 2 new scales: Perceptions of Physical Health and Yoga Teachings (including Negative Behaviors, Positive Behaviors, and Focusing/relaxation subscales). Preintervention and postintervention, physical wellbeing was assessed by measures of flexibility and balance. Subjective ratings ofyoga's effects on well-being were evaluated by an additional questionnaire completed by the yoga group only. RESULTS: Data were collected from 78% (n=39) and 86.5% (n=32) of potential yoga and non-yoga study enrollees. No differences in baseline demographics were found. Controlling for preintervention well-being differences using analysis of covariance, we found that children in the yoga group had better postintervention Negative Behaviors scores and balance than the non-yoga group (P < .05). The majority of children participating in yoga reported enhanced wellbeing, as reflected by perceived improvements in behaviors directly targeted by yoga (e.g., strength, flexibility, balance). CONCLUSIONS: Although no significant differences were found in the study's primary outcomes (global self-worth and perceptions of physical well-being), children participating in yoga reported using fewer negative behaviors in response to stress and had better balance than a comparison group. Improvements in wellbeing, specifically in behaviors directly targeted by yoga, were reported. These results suggest a possible role of yoga as a preventive intervention as well as a means of improving children's perceived well-being.
The authors address 2 questions about embarrassment. First, Is embarrassment a distinct emotion? The evidence indicates that the antecedents, experience, and display of embarrassment, and to a limited extent its autonomic physiology, are distinct from shame, guilt, and amusement and share the dynamic, temporal characteristics of emotion. Second, What are the theoretical accounts of embarrassment? Three accounts focus on the causes of embarrassment, positioning that it follows the loss of self-esteem, concern for others' evaluations, or absence of scripts to guide interactions. A fourth account focuses on the effects of the remedial actions of embarrassment, which correct preceding transgressions. A fifth account focuses on the functional parallels between embarrassment and nonhuman appeasement. The discussion focuses on unanswered questions about embarrassment.
People believe they see emotion written on the faces of other people. In an instant, simple facial actions are transformed into information about another's emotional state. The present research examined whether a perceiver unknowingly contributes to emotion perception with emotion word knowledge. We present 2 studies that together support a role for emotion concepts in the formation of visual percepts of emotion. As predicted, we found that perceptual priming of emotional faces (e.g., a scowling face) was disrupted when the accessibility of a relevant emotion word (e.g., anger) was temporarily reduced, demonstrating that the exact same face was encoded differently when a word was accessible versus when it was not. The implications of these findings for a linguistically relative view of emotion perception are discussed.
The LASS theory proposes that Language and Situated Simulation both play central roles in conceptual processing. Depending on stimuli and task conditions, different mixtures of language and simulation occur. When a word is processed in a conceptual task, it first activates other linguistic forms, such as word associates. More slowly, the word activates a situated simulation to represent its meaning in neural systems for perception, action, and mental states. An fMRI experiment tested the LASS account. In a first scanning session, participants performed the property generation task to provide a measure of conceptual processing. In a second scanning session a week later, participants performed two localizer tasks measuring word association and situated simulation. Conjunction analyses supported predictions of the LASS theory. Activations early in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for word association. Activations late in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for situation generation. These results, along with others in the literature, indicate that conceptual processing uses multiple representations, not one. Furthermore, researchers must be careful drawing conclusions about conceptual processing, given that different paradigms are likely to produce different mixtures of language and simulation. Whereas some paradigms produce high levels of linguistic processing and low levels of simulation, other paradigms produce the opposite pattern.
The relation between brain activity and the immune system was evaluated by assessing immune responses in 20 healthy women who manifested extreme differences in the asymmetry of frontal cortex activation. One group showed extreme and stable left frontal activation; the other group showed extreme and stable right frontal activation. As predicted, women with extreme right frontal activation had significantly lower levels of natural killer cell activity (at effector:target cell ratios of 33:1 and 11:1) than did left frontally activated individuals. This difference did not extend to two other immune measures, lymphocyte proliferation and T-cell subsets. However, higher immunoglobulin levels of the M class were observed in the right frontal group. In this study, the immune patterns could not be accounted for by plasma cortisol levels, anxiety- and depression-related symptomatology, or recent health histories. These findings support the hypothesis that there is a specific association between frontal brain asymmetry and certain immune responses.
The article discusses the Mahamudra oral tradition teachings of the spiritual father and Dharmavajra, his son of highest attainment, through the joined Gelug and Ka-gyu Traditions. It highlights the significance of taking refuge and developing an Enlightened Attitude of Bodhicitta to enter the gateway and framework of Buddha's teachings. The proper methods for formal meditation session in concentrating single-mindedly on Voidness is illustrated.
According to the Conceptual Act Theory of Emotion, the situated conceptualization used to construe a situation determines the emotion experienced. A neuroimaging experiment tested two core hypotheses of this theory: (1) different situated conceptualizations produce different forms of the same emotion in different situations, (2) the composition of a situated conceptualization emerges from shared multimodal circuitry distributed across the brain that produces emotional states generally. To test these hypotheses, the situation in which participants experienced an emotion was manipulated. On each trial, participants immersed themselves in a physical danger or social evaluation situation and then experienced fear or anger. According to Hypothesis 1, the brain activations for the same emotion should differ as a function of the preceding situation (after removing activations that arose while constructing the situation). According to Hypothesis 2, the critical activations should reflect conceptual processing relevant to the emotion in the current situation, drawn from shared multimodal circuitry underlying emotion. The results supported these predictions and demonstrated the compositional process that produces situated conceptualizations dynamically.
Ambivalence is widely assumed to prolong grief. To examine this hypothesis, the authors developed a measure of ambivalence based on an algorithmic combination of separate positive and negative evaluations of one's spouse. Preliminary construct validity was evidenced in relation to emotional difficulties and to facial expressions of emotion. Bereaved participants, relative to a nonbereaved comparison sample, recollected their relationships as better adjusted but were more ambivalent. Ambivalence about spouses was generally associated with increased distress and poorer perceived health but did not predict long-term grief outcome once initial outcome was controlled. In contrast, initial grief and distress predicted increased ambivalence and decreased Dyadic Adjustment Scale scores at 14 months postloss, regardless of initial scores on these measures. Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed.
Dozens of studies in different nations have revealed that socioeconomic status only weakly predicts an individual's subjective well-being (SWB). These results imply that although the pursuit of social status is a fundamental human motivation, achieving high status has little impact on one's SWB. However, we propose that sociometric status-the respect and admiration one has in face-to-face groups (e.g., among friends or coworkers)-has a stronger effect on SWB than does socioeconomic status. Using correlational, experimental, and longitudinal methodologies, four studies found consistent evidence for a local-ladder effect: Sociometric status significantly predicted satisfaction with life and the experience of positive and negative emotions. Longitudinally, as sociometric status rose or fell, SWB rose or fell accordingly. Furthermore, these effects were driven by feelings of power and social acceptance. Overall, individuals' sociometric status matters more to their SWB than does their socioeconomic status.
Self-conscious emotions such as embarrassment and shame are associated with 2 aspects of theory of mind (ToM): (a) the ability to understand that behavior has social consequences in the eyes of others and (b) an understanding of social norms violations. The present study aimed to link ToM with the recognition of self-conscious emotion. Children with and without autism identified facial expressions conscious of self-conscious and non-self-conscious emotions from photographs. ToM was also measured. Children with autism performed more poorly than comparison children at identifying self-conscious emotions, though they did not differ in the recognition of non-self-conscious emotions. When ToM ability was statistically controlled, group differences in the recognition of self-conscious emotion disappeared. Discussion focused on the links between ToM and self-conscious emotion.
According to the Perceptual Symbols Theory of cognition (Barsalou, 1999), modality-specific simulations underlie the representation of concepts. A strong prediction of this view is that perceptual processing affects conceptual processing. In this study, participants performed a perceptual detection task and a conceptual property-verification task in alternation. Responses on the property-verification task were slower for those trials that were preceded by a perceptual trial in a different modality than for those that were preceded by a perceptual trial in the same modality. This finding of a modality-switch effect across perceptual processing and conceptual processing supports the hypothesis that perceptual and conceptual representations are partially based on the same systems.
In three experiments, participants received nouns or noun phrases for objects and verbally generated their properties ("feature listing"). Several sources of evidence indicated that participants constructed perceptual simulations to generate properties for the noun phrases during conceptual combination. First, the production of object properties for noun phrases depended on occlusion, with unoccluded properties being generated more often than occluded properties. Because a perceptual variable affected conceptual combination, perceptual simulations appeared central to combining the concepts for modifiers and head nouns. Second, neutral participants produced the same distributions of properties as participants instructed to describe images, suggesting that the conceptual representations used by neutral participants were similar to the mental images used by imagery participants. Furthermore, the property distributions for neutral and imagery participants differed from those for participants instructed to produce word associations. Third, participants produced large amounts of information about background situations associated with the object cues, suggesting that the simulations used to generate properties were situated. The experiments ruled out alternative explanations that simulation effects occur only for familiar noun phrases associated with perceptual memories and that rules associated with modifiers produce occlusion effects. A process model of the property generation task grounded in simulation mechanisms is presented. The possibility of integrating the simulation account of conceptual combination with traditional accounts and well-established findings is explored.
Consistency in the self-concept across social contexts has been linked to various positive outcomes, including felt authenticity and well-being. Based on theories of social power (e.g., Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003), we predicted that high-power individuals, disposed to greater control of their environments and freedom of self-expression, would exhibit greater self-concept consistency relative to their low-power counterparts. Across three studies, measured and manipulated high-power participants showed elevated self-concept consistency in terms of greater coherence and consistency in their spontaneous self-descriptions (Studies 1 and 2), and less variability in trait ratings of themselves across different contexts (Study 3), relative to low-power participants. Moreover, high-power participants' tendency to be more consistent in their self-concept explained their higher reports of authenticity relative to low-power participants (Study 3). Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for health and well-being, and for power differences in other cultural contexts.
The present studies examined how observers infer moral attributes and beliefs from nonverbal pride displays. Pride is a self-focused positive emotion triggered by appraisals of the self's success, status, and competence. We hypothesized that when a target emits nonverbal cues of pride, he or she will be viewed by observers as higher in self-interest and therefore more likely to endorse ideologies that would benefit the self-specifically, merit-based resource distributions (meritocracy) as opposed to equality-based resource distributions (egalitarianism). Across studies, experimentally manipulated pride displays (Studies 1 and 3) and naturally occurring expressions of pride (Study 4) led observers to infer heightened support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism. Analyses also revealed that people intuitively associate higher self-interest with enhanced support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism (Study 2), and this association mediates the pathway from pride displays to inferences of heightened support for meritocracy and reduced support for egalitarianism (Studies 3 and 4). Across studies, we compare pride to expressions of joy or no emotion and demonstrate these effects using thin slices as well as static images.
Although once considered disruptive, self-conscious emotions are now theorized to be fundamentally involved in the regulation of social behavior. The present study examined the social regulation function of self-conscious emotions by comparing healthy participants with a neuropsychological population--patients with orbitofrontal lesions--characterized by selective regulatory deficits. Orbitofrontal patients and healthy controls participated in a series of tasks designed to assess their social regulation and self-conscious emotions. Another task assessed the ability to infer others' emotional states, an appraisal process involved in self-conscious emotion. Consistent with the theory that self-conscious emotions are important for regulating social behavior, the findings show that deficient behavioral regulation is associated with inappropriate self-conscious emotions that reinforce maladaptive behavior. Additionally, deficient behavioral regulation is associated with impairments in interpreting the self-conscious emotions of others.
Work in philosophy and psychology has argued for a dissociation between perceptually-based similarity and higher-level rules in conceptual thought. Although such a dissociation may be justified at times, our goal is to illustrate ways in which conceptual processing is grounded in perception, both for perceptual similarity and abstract rules. We discuss the advantages, power and influences of perceptually-based representations. First, many of the properties associated with amodal symbol systems can be achieved with perceptually-based systems as well (e.g. productivity). Second, relatively raw perceptual representations are powerful because they can implicitly represent properties in an analog fashion. Third, perception naturally provides impressions of overall similarity, exactly the type of similarity useful for establishing many common categories. Fourth, perceptual similarity is not static but becomes tuned over time to conceptual demands. Fifth, the original motivation or basis for sophisticated cognition is often less sophisticated perceptual similarity. Sixth, perceptual simulation occurs even in conceptual tasks that have no explicit perceptual demands. Parallels between perceptual and conceptual processes suggest that many mechanisms typically associated with abstract thought are also present in perception, and that perceptual processes provide useful mechanisms that may be co-opted by abstract thought.
Based on accumulating evidence, simulation appears to be a basic computational mechanism in the brain that supports a broad spectrum of processes from perception to social cognition. Further evidence suggests that simulation is typically situated, with the situated character of experience in the environment being reflected in the situated character of the representations that underlie simulation. A basic architecture is sketched of how the brain implements situated simulation. Within this framework, simulators implement the concepts that underlie knowledge, and situated conceptualizations capture patterns of multi-modal simulation associated with frequently experienced situations. A pattern completion inference mechanism uses current perception to activate situated conceptualizations that produce predictions via simulations on relevant modalities. Empirical findings from perception, action, working memory, conceptual processing, language and social cognition illustrate how this framework produces the extensive prediction that characterizes natural intelligence.