Over at Deric’s Mindblog there is a post about this paper on mouse meditation! Here is the abstract:
Meditation training induces changes at both the behavioral and neural levels. A month of meditation training can reduce self-reported anxiety and other dimensions of negative affect. It also can change white matter as measured by diffusion tensor imaging and increase resting-state midline frontal theta activity. The current study tests the hypothesis that imposing rhythms in the mouse anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), by using optogenetics to induce oscillations in activity, can produce behavioral changes. Mice were randomly assigned to groups and were given twenty 30-min sessions of light pulses delivered at 1, 8, or 40 Hz over 4 wk or were assigned to a no-laser control condition. Before and after the month all mice were administered a battery of behavioral tests. In the light/dark box, mice receiving cortical stimulation had more light-side entries, spent more time in the light, and made more vertical rears than mice receiving rhythmic cortical suppression or no manipulation. These effects on light/dark box exploratory behaviors are associated with reduced anxiety and were most pronounced following stimulation at 1 and 8 Hz. No effects were seen related to basic motor behavior or exploration during tests of novel object and location recognition. These data support a relationship between lower-frequency oscillations in the mouse ACC and the expression of anxiety-related behaviors, potentially analogous to effects seen with human practitioners of some forms of meditation.
Here’s the Indian version of the Mickey Mouse show:
I have completed my second year of daily meditation. I only missed two days this year, one because I was seriously ill. One tool that has really helped me is the Insight Timer. I started using the timer after I began meditating so it is not a complete record, but here are my statistics:
Number of sessions: 702
Average session time: 14.2 minutes
Longest session time: 21 minutes
Total session time: 166 hours 26 minutes
I started meditating for ten minutes a day but now do 15 minutes. I have been experimenting with various forms of metta meditation, but it is still a work in progress. I will continue to press on.
Here is a video by my friend and teacher Larry Terkel on mediation:
I practice meditation everyday, so I have a bias in favor of the practice. However, the point of science is to control for our biases. We have been told that the evidence for meditation is overwhelming, but how good is the evidence? To its credit, the Buddhist magazine Tricycle discusses a recent meta-analysis of research on meditation and the results are sobering:
“only 47 out of over 18,000 studies had them, which is pretty telling: it suggests that there are fewer than 50 high-quality studies on meditation”
In the article, scientist Willoughby Britton offers some perspective:
“With any new discovery, there is usually some initial craze before it gets too popular, and then there is a backlash. A lot of things that were overhyped get torn down. And whatever is really legitimately true is left standing in the end. So I think we are at the peak of this first phase. There have already been a couple rounds of criticism.”
Science is good for meditation. Not all claims on its behalf will turn out to be true, but that’s OK. In the long run, we are better off having a nuanced rational understanding of our practice.
A nice post by BoingBoing co-founder Carla Sinclair about her productive habits:
“Making exercise, meditating, and sunshine part of my daily routine greatly improves my mood and clarity of mind.”
Good advice for everyone.
“Set Priorities for Your Day: Make sure you get things done that will make you feel good about your day.
Meditate: try one or more of our guided meditation plans.
No Screens After 10pm: set a limit for when you’ll turn of screens, one way you might improve the quality of your sleep. Or search “screens” to find other “no screens” habits based on other times”
This is my third blog post in three days on telomeres. I think the subject is important and may yield new insights into human health.
Today I am going to share another video from Dr. Greger about the role of diet in telomere length:
A couple of days ago I blogged about Willoughby Britton’s research on meditation. Here is an interview where she talks about some of the possible negative side effects of mediation. Note that this is not an argument against meditation, but an effort to realistically evaluate both the benefits and the possible risks.
A few of the comments, posted on Vimeo, are hostile to Britton’s work. For example,
“Is this ‘scientific’ work trying to make people feel afraid of meditating and evolving their consciousness?”
I think this kind of reaction is unfortunate. Science is not about re-affirming preconceptions, it is about taking evidence seriously and entertaining hard questions. I meditate everyday and I value the work of scientists like Britton who try to ground practice in rigorous science.
The Dark Side of Meditation from Centre of Gravity on Vimeo.
An article in The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Penn State players using mindfulness meditation to improve performance:
“elite athletes from Penn State’s Frazier to the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks are using meditation and yoga to enhance performance and avoid destructive habits like dwelling on mistakes.”