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Psychological stress is a major provocative factor of symptoms in chronic inflammatory conditions. In recent years, interest in addressing stress responsivity through meditation training in health-related domains has increased astoundingly, despite a paucity of evidence that reported benefits are specific to meditation practice. We designed the present study to rigorously compare an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in ability to reduce psychological stress and experimentally-induced inflammation. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to induce psychological stress and inflammation was produced using topical application of capsaicin cream to forearm skin. Immune and endocrine measures of inflammation and stress were collected both before and after MBSR training. Results show those randomized to MBSR and HEP training had comparable post-training stress-evoked cortisol responses, as well as equivalent reductions in self-reported psychological distress and physical symptoms. However, MBSR training resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to HEP, despite equivalent levels of stress hormones. These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions. Moreover, mindfulness practice, in particular, may be more efficacious in symptom relief than the well-being promoting activities cultivated in the HEP program.

Psychological stress is a major provocative factor of symptoms in chronic inflammatory conditions. In recent years, interest in addressing stress responsivity through meditation training in health-related domains has increased astoundingly, despite a paucity of evidence that reported benefits are specific to meditation practice. We designed the present study to rigorously compare an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in ability to reduce psychological stress and experimentally-induced inflammation. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to induce psychological stress and inflammation was produced using topical application of capsaicin cream to forearm skin. Immune and endocrine measures of inflammation and stress were collected both before and after MBSR training. Results show those randomized to MBSR and HEP training had comparable post-training stress-evoked cortisol responses, as well as equivalent reductions in self-reported psychological distress and physical symptoms. However, MBSR training resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to HEP, despite equivalent levels of stress hormones. These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions. Moreover, mindfulness practice, in particular, may be more efficacious in symptom relief than the well-being promoting activities cultivated in the HEP program.
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The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

<p>This new and up-to-the-minute compendium of reliable and authoritative information on complementary and alternative therapies seeks to provide information that older adults may use as they seek to improve their health and quality of life. Covering dietary means; physical, mental, and spiritual methods of treatment; and various types of therapies, this handbook is the most comprehensive and up-to-date resource on complementary and alternative medicine available today.</p>

Many spiritual traditions employ certain mental techniques (meditation) which consist in inhibiting mental activity whilst nonetheless remaining fully conscious, which is supposed to lead to a realisation of one’s own true nature prior to habitual self-substantialisation. In this paper I propose that this practice can be understood as a special means of becoming aware of consciousness itself as such. To explain this claim I conduct some phenomenologically oriented considerations about the nature of consciousness qua presence and the problem of self-presence of this presence.

This project involves developing syllabi for two courses, an introduction to American Studies and an English Department senior seminar. It focuses on nature writers-not only literary authors, but natural and social scientists-who are also contemplatives: Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Richard Nelson, Terry Tempest Williams, Linda Hogan and others. Themes explored in these texts include dwelling, home and universe, comparative traditions, science, travel, the lessons of history, embodiment, ecofeminism, green movements and environmental justice, and imaginative versions of landscape by the privileged juxtaposed to the lived experience of the disempowered. Since contemplation of nature is what most nature writers in fact do, students involve themselves as well in contemplative practice. They begin each class period with meditation as a centering exercise; write contemplative journal entries on their readings; and reflect deeply on these entries and turn them into papers. Further, the act of contemplation for nature writers does not end in solitude, but in emergence in a connection to the world. To this end, there is a community service component in these courses, compulsory in the introductory course and voluntary in the senior seminar.

This essay seeks to explore contemplation as it features in Christian theology and philosophy, both ancient and modern. Contemplation, in ancient philosophy, is transformed in Christian theology; nonetheless, it has the structure of what Jean Wahl calls ‘transascendance’, a rising to the heights. Although contemplation remains as a theme in modern Christian theology, it drops out in modern philosophy: that is, post-Renaissance philosophy. And yet it returns, both in analytic and continental philosophy, in the twentieth century. It returns, however, in the mode of ‘transdescendance’: by way of conditions of possibility, and fundamental orientations.

Contemplative education includes practices that aim to help a person cultivate conscious awareness, especially internal self-awareness and awareness of one's connection to the world. Such practices include meditation, movement, and the contemplation of nature. Exploration is under way to determine if these practices might assist young people in their development, as they do in adulthood.

<p>Mindfulness meditation is increasingly recognized as a health promotion practice across many different kinds of settings. Concomitantly, contemplative education is being integrated into colleges and universities in order to enhance learning through reflection and personal insight. The confluence of these trends provides an opportunity to develop experiential curriculum that promotes both health and learning through the teaching of contemplative practices in higher education settings. Such curriculum, if indeed it is believed to be a valuable development in higher education, must not be reserved only for elite and highly competitive schools serving traditional college students, but must be integrated into campuses of all kinds and made accessible to any student. This emphasis on accessibility will need to consider the growing interest in contemplative learning across economic, religious, and ethnic groups, geographic contexts, and individual differences, including disability. The growth of contemplative curriculum in higher education will also need to be accompanied by meaningful and valid curriculum assessment methods in order to abide by the standards of contemporary university settings as it gently transforms many such settings. This article describes the development of an experiential course in mindfulness that was taught on two very different college campuses. The author's personal experiences and preparation for the course, the course content, the impact of the course on students, and reflections on contemplative practice as a movement in education are offered as an example of the potential for contemplative education in some unexpected places.</p>

The goal of this course is to explore meditative and contemplative tradition in various cultures and spiritual traditions, and study the ways in which contemplative practice can contribute to psychotherapy, both indirectly through the meditative practice of the therapist, and directly through application in the therapy proper.

<p>Contemplative practices, from meditation to Zen, are growing in popularity as methods to inspire physical and mental health. "Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health" offers readers an introduction to these practices and the ways they can be used in the service of well being, wisdom, healing, and stress reduction. Bringing together various traditions from the East and West, this thought-provoking work summarizes the history of each practice, highlights classic and emerging research proving its power, and details how each practice is performed. Expert authors offer step-by-step approaches to practice methods including the 8-Point Program of Passage Meditation, Centering Prayer, mindful stress management, mantram meditation, energizing meditation, yoga, and Zen. Beneficial practices from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic religions are also featured. Vignettes illustrate each of the practices, while the contributors explain how and why they are effective in facing challenges as varied as the loss of a partner or child, job loss, chronic pain or disease, or psychological disorders.</p>

<p>This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.</p>
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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.
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<p>Background: Mindfulness is the development of a nonjudgmental accepting awareness of moment-by-moment experience. Intentionally attending to one’s ongoing stream of sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they arise has a number of benefits, including the ability to react with greater flexibility to events and sustain attention. Thus the teaching of mindfulness-based skills to children and their carers is a potential means of improving family relationships and helping children achieve more positive developmental outcomes through increased ability to sustain attention and manage emotions. We provide a review of recent studies evaluating mindfulness-based interventions targeting children, adolescents, and families in educational and clinical settings.Method: Searches were conducted of several databases (including Medline, PsychINFO and Cochrane Reviews) to identify studies that have evaluated mindfulness-based interventions targeting children, adolescents or families published since 2009.Results: Twenty-four studies were identified. We conclude that mindfulness-based interventions are an important addition to the repertoire of existing therapeutic techniques. However, large-scale, methodologically rigorous studies are lacking. The interventions used in treatment evaluations vary in both content and dose, the outcomes targeted have varied, and no studies have employed methodology to investigate mechanisms of change.Conclusions: There is increasing evidence that mindfulness-based therapeutic techniques can have a positive impact on a range of outcome variables. A greater understanding of the mechanisms of change is an important future direction of research. We argue that locating mindfulness-based therapies targeting children and families within the broader child and family field has greater promise in improving child and family functioning than viewing mindful parenting as an independent endeavor.</p>
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Many investigators have hypothesized that brain response to cortisol is altered in depression. However, neural activation in response to exogenously manipulated cortisol elevations has not yet been directly examined in depressed humans. Animal research shows that glucocorticoids have robust effects on hippocampal function, and can either enhance or suppress neuroplastic events in the hippocampus depending on a number of factors. We hypothesized that depressed individuals would show 1) altered hippocampal response to exogenous administration of cortisol, and 2) altered effects of cortisol on learning. In a repeated-measures design, 19 unmedicated depressed and 41 healthy individuals completed two fMRI scans. Fifteen mg oral hydrocortisone (i.e., cortisol) or placebo (order randomized and double-blind) was administered 1 h prior to encoding of emotional and neutral words during fMRI scans. Data analysis examined the effects of cortisol administration on 1) brain activation during encoding, and 2) subsequent free recall for words. Cortisol affected subsequent recall performance in depressed but not healthy individuals. We found alterations in hippocampal response to cortisol in depressed women, but not in depressed men (who showed altered response to cortisol in other regions, including subgenual prefrontal cortex). In both depressed men and women, cortisol's effects on hippocampal function were positively correlated with its effects on recall performance assessed days later. Our data provide evidence that in depressed compared to healthy women, cortisol's effects on hippocampal function are altered. Our data also show that in both depressed men and women, cortisol's effects on emotional memory formation and hippocampal function are related.
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While much attention has been devoted to examining the beneficial effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs on patients' ability to cope with various chronic medical conditions, most studies have relied on self-report measures of improvement. Given that these measures may not accurately reflect physiological conditions, there is a need for an objective marker of improvement in research evaluating the beneficial effects of stress management programs. Cortisol is the major stress hormone in the human organism and as such is a promising candidate measure in the study of the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs. In conjunction with other biological measures, the use of cortisol levels as a physiological marker of stress may be useful to validate self-reported benefits attributed to this program. In the current manuscript, we review the available literature on the role of cortisol as a physiological marker for improvement with regards to mindfulness practice, and make recommendations for future study designs.

In a test of the effects of cortisol on emotional memory, 90 men were orally administered placebo or 20 or 40 mg cortisol and presented with emotionally arousing and neutral stimuli. On memory tests administered within 1 hr of stimulus presentation, cortisol elevations caused a reduction in the number of errors committed on free-recall tasks. Two evenings later, when cortisol levels were no longer manipulated, inverted-U quadratic trends were found for recognition memory tasks, reflecting memory facilitation in the 20-mg group for both negative and neutral information. Results suggest that the effects of cortisol on memory do not differ substantially for emotional and neutral information. The study provides evidence of beneficial effects of acute cortisol elevations on explicit memory in humans.
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How does language reliably evoke emotion, as it does when people read a favorite novel or listen to a skilled orator? Recent evidence suggests that comprehension involves a mental simulation of sentence content that calls on the same neural systems used in literal action, perception, and emotion. In this study, we demonstrated that involuntary facial expression plays a causal role in the processing of emotional language. Subcutaneous injections of botulinum toxin-A (BTX) were used to temporarily paralyze the facial muscle used in frowning. We found that BTX selectively slowed the reading of sentences that described situations that normally require the paralyzed muscle for expressing the emotions evoked by the sentences. This finding demonstrates that peripheral feedback plays a role in language processing, supports facial-feedback theories of emotional cognition, and raises questions about the effects of BTX on cognition and emotional reactivity. We account for the role of facial feedback in language processing by considering neurophysiological mechanisms and reinforcement-learning theory.
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<p>Abstract. We explore the role of meditative practice in cultivating experiences of compassion, empathy, and altruism and address an apparent paradox: Meditation often is associated with solitary retreat, if not preoccupation with one's own concerns. How, then, does such a practice promote compassion for others? We propose a two-stage model. The first stage involves disengagement from usual preoccupation with self-reinforcing, self-defeating, or self-indulgent behaviors and reactions; the second involves a focused engagement with a universal human capacity for altruistic experience, love, and compassion. Reference is made to the limited research literature and to clinical applications of loving kindness (metta) meditation in cultivating these processes.</p>

Demands faced by health care professionals include heavy caseloads, limited control over the work environment, long hours, as well as organizational structures and systems in transition. Such conditions have been directly linked to increased stress and symptoms of burnout, which in turn, have adverse consequences for clinicians and the quality of care that is provided to patients. Consequently, there exists an impetus for the development of curriculum aimed at fostering wellness and the necessary self-care skills for clinicians. This review will examine the potential benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs aimed at enhancing well-being and coping with stress in this population. Empirical evidence indicates that participation in MBSR yields benefits for clinicians in the domains of physical and mental health. Conceptual and methodological limitations of the existing studies and suggestions for future research are discussed.

<p>Between June 2004 and April 2005, the Garrison Institute… mapped the current status of programs utilizing contemplative techniques with mainstream student populations in K-12 educational settings. The Mapping Project sought to identify similarities and differences in program pedagogy and methodology…</p>

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