Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dynamic Mind/Body Awareness Changes Before and After Mindfulness Meditation


Another interesting study looking at how mindfulness meditation creates dynamic changes in brain/body awareness. This comes courtesy of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, part of the Frontiers family of open access science publishing.

Dynamic change of awareness during meditation techniques: neural and physiological correlates

  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Augusta Women’s Center, Augusta, GA, USA
  • 2Georgia Prevention Center, Institute of Public and Preventive Health, Georgia Health Sciences University, Augusta, GA, USA
  • 3University of South Carolina, Aiken, SC, USA
  • 4College of Medicine, American University of Antigua, New York, NY, USA

Introduction

Recent findings illustrate how changes in consciousness accommodated by neural correlates and plasticity of the brain advance a model of perceptual change as a function of meditative practice. During the mind-body response neural correlates of changing awareness illustrate how the autonomic nervous system shifts from a sympathetic dominant to a parasympathetic dominant state. Expansion of awareness during the practice of meditation techniques can be linked to the Default Mode Network (DMN), a network of brain regions that is active when the one is not focused on the outside world and the brain is restful yet awake (Chen et al., 2008). A model is presented illustrating the dynamic mind-body response before and after mindfulness meditation, and connections are made with prefrontal cortex activity, the cardiac and respiratory center, the thalamus and amygdala, the DMN and cortical function connectivity. The default status of the DMN changes corresponding to autonomic modulation resulting from meditation practice.

Modeling Spatial Awareness during the Mind-Body Response

The dynamic mind-body response supports the interrelationship between one’s physical health and the state of one’s mind. The mind-body response may be illustrated by a hypothetical psychophysiological condition before meditation, with decreased prefrontal cortex activity, with increased mind wandering (Hasenkamp et al., 2012) leading to an unsynchronized cardiac and respiratory center (elevated sympathetic nervous system activity) and increased activity of the thalamus and amygdala (see Figure 1). Increased thalamo-cortical activity is associated with baseline or increased DMN activity and decreased cortical function connectivity. During and after meditation, DMN activity is decreased and there is increased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to a more synchronized cardiac and respiratory center (elevated parasympathetic nervous system activity) and decreased activity of the thalamus and amygdala. This decreased thalamo-cortical activity is associated with decreased DMN activity and increased cortical function connectivity. This model is supported by a number of recent fMRI and other imaging studies.
FIGURE 1
 
Figure 1. The dynamic mind-body response is illustrated by a hypothetical psychophysiological condition before mindfulness meditation, with mind wandering and decreased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to unsynchronized cardiac and respiratory centers (elevated sympathetic nervous system activity) and increased activity of the thalamus and amygdala associated with baseline or increased activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) and decreased cortical function connectivity
In the final stage and after meditation, there is decreased mind wandering and increased prefrontal cortex activity, leading to synchronized cardiac and respiratory centers (elevated parasympathetic nervous system activity) and decreased activity of the thalamus and amygdala associated with decreased DMN activity and increased cortical function connectivity.
Read the whole paper - it's also free for download.
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