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Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain

Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain
When I’m stressed, I listen to a 20-minute mindfulness meditation tape. It always helps me feel calmer and more relaxed. Many meditative practices can do this. But mindfulness meditation is getting a lot of attention because it seems to help with so many physical and psychological problems—like high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, and depression. It’s also been shown to boost immune function and stop binge eating. No one knows for sure what’s behind these benefits, but physical changes in the brain probably play a role. Mindfulness meditation is a mental discipline. A new study, published in the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage, suggests that one effect of all this focusing and refocusing is increased brain connectivity. At Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers used MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain’s gray matter—the “processing” neurons—associated with mindfulness meditation.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-improves-connections-in-the-brain-201104082253

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Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter. "Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study's senior author. "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

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The science of protecting people’s feelings: why we pretend all opinions are equal It’s both the coolest — and also in some ways the most depressing — psychology study ever. Indeed, it’s so cool (and so depressing) that the name of its chief finding — the Dunning-Kruger effect — has at least halfway filtered into public consciousness. In the classic 1999 paper, Cornell researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger found that the less competent people were in three domains — humor, logic, and grammar — the less likely they were to be able to recognize that. Or as the researchers put it: We propose that those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer from a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Dunning and Kruger didn’t directly apply this insight to our debates about science.

Compassion meditation may boost neural basis of empathy, Emory study finds A compassion-based meditation program can significantly improve a person's ability to read the facial expressions of others, finds a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. This boost in empathic accuracy was detected through both behavioral testing of the study participants and through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of their brain activity. "It's an intriguing result, suggesting that a behavioral intervention could enhance a key aspect of empathy," says lead author Jennifer Mascaro, a post-doctoral fellow in anthropology at Emory University.

FLOAT “The simple act of floating in warm salty water is the most relaxing experience on Earth.” That’s the motto of Floataway, one of the pioneers of the float industry. A float tank, or float pod, is a small, enclosed pool usually just big enough for one person to lie down in. The water is less than a foot deep, but has so much Epsom salt dissolved in it that it’s more dense than the Dead Sea — each tank contains 800 to 1000 lbs of salt! You float effortlessly, even in such a shallow depth. Epsom salt is used to provide buoyancy, rather than normal sea salt, to avoid the itchy wrinkly pruny effect that comes with long immersion in the ocean.

The Essence of Peopling Sarah Perry is a contributing editor of Ribbonfarm. Nouns for human beings – “people” or “person” – conjure in the mind a snapshot of the surface appearance of humans. Using nouns like “people” subtly encourages thinking about people as frozen in time, doing nothing in particular. “People” is an anchor for thinking about human bodies separate from their environment, from the buildings and streets and farms and parks that they build and use to go about their business. I prefer to think about “peopling” – the process of human beings going about their business, whatever that is. Meditation May Increase Empathy Previous brain studies have shown that when a person witnesses someone else in an emotional state—such as disgust or pain—similar activity is seen in both people’s brains. This shows a physiological base for empathy, defined as the ability to understand and share another person’s experience. Now research at the University of Wisconsin has used advanced brain images (fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging) to show that compassion meditation—a specific form of Buddhist meditation—may increase the human capacity for empathy.

Benefits of Floatation — Float Level - Floatation Centre in Manchester City Centre The secret to the amazing benefits felt by having regular float sessions comes largely from the fact that floating shifts your brain into lower, more relaxing frequency levels: Beta (normal alert state for day to day tasks)Alpha (relaxed but aware of our surroundings)Theta (in between awake & sleep) – The Typical Float LevelDelta (deep sleep) The Theta state is typically associated with advanced meditative techniques and provides an immense clarity of thought and an experience of the pure essence of being. Floatation is a tool which makes this state easily accessible to anyone.

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