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Thread: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

  1. #1

    SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Hi Guys,

    Someone just sent me this link. I have been very interested in and supporting these tests for awhile, and now ...

    ... science confirms what Zennists have known all along!!!

    (Side Note: The researchers used meditation focused on breathing or holding posture ... but it is Jundo's unscientific conclusion that the same general results would arise for Zazen of "open awareness" as we practice in Shikantaza ... plus other key 'benefits' as well.)


    Study (Emory University): Zen Meditation Really Does Clear the Mind

    By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience
    02 September 2008

    The seemingly nonsensical Zen practice of "thinking about not thinking" could help free the mind of distractions, new brain scans reveal.

    This suggests Zen meditation could help treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (so-called ADD or ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, major depression and other disorders marked by distracting thoughts.

    In the last decade, there has been a resurgence of scientific research into meditation, due in part to the wide availability and increasing sophistication of brain-scanning techniques. For instance, scientists recently found that months of intense training in meditation can sharpen a person's brain enough to help them notice details they might otherwise miss.

    "It is important that this type of research be conducted with high scientific standards because it carries a long-standing stigma — perhaps well-deserved? — of being wishy-washy," said researcher Giuseppe Pagnoni, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Constructive skepticism should always be welcomed as a great sparring partner."

    Pagnoni and his colleagues investigated Zen meditation, which Pagnoni himself has practiced while studying for his doctorate in Italy.

    The Zen of Zen

    Zen meditation vigorously discourages mental withdrawal from the world and dreaminess, and instead asks one to keep fully aware with a vigilant attitude. It typically asks one to silently focus on breathing and one's posture with eyes open in a quiet place and to calmly dismiss any thoughts as they pop up, essentially "thinking nothing." One can over time learn how to keep one's mind from wandering, become aware of otherwise unconscious behaviors and preconceived notions and hopefully gain insights into oneself, others and the world.

    To see what effects Zen meditation might have on the brain, scientists compared 12 people from the Atlanta area with more than three years of daily practice in Zen meditation with 12 novices who had never practiced meditation.

    The researchers "had to screen — and discard — a number of colorful characters who during the interview declared that they were meditating regularly by screaming in a towel while stomping their feet on the ground, or that they were communicating frequently with beings of other planets," Pagnoni recalled. "Such are the unexpected joys of this research!"

    As the volunteers had their brains scanned, they were asked to focus on their breathing. Every once in a while, they had to distinguish a real word from a nonsense word displayed at random times on a computer screen and, having done that, promptly try and focus on their breathing again.

    Their scans revealed that Zen training led to different activity in a set of brain regions known as the "default network," which is linked with spontaneous bursts of thought and wandering minds. After volunteers experienced in Zen were distracted by the computer, their brains returned faster to how they were before the interruption than novice brains did. This effect was especially striking in the angular gyrus, a brain region important for processing language.

    "The regular practice of meditation may enhance the capacity to limit the influence of distracting thoughts," Pagnoni said.

    Posturing the findings

    "What I find really interesting in this approach is that it stands to regulate the mind by regulating the body — posture, breathing," Pagnoni said. The neural circuits for controlling posture are quite distinct from those responsible for higher brain functions, "and perhaps shifting one's attention to posture or breathing facilitates a temporary quelling of mental chatter."

    By teaching people how to clear their minds of interruptions, Zen meditation could help disorders marked by distracting thoughts, Pagnoni said.

    "There is already some evidence that a behavioral therapy incorporating elements of mindfulness training derived from meditation can be beneficial in reducing relapses in major depression," Pagnoni noted.

    Pagnoni added that the default mode network might be especially vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease.

    "Although we enter the field of wild speculations here, could the practice of meditation, by providing regular intervals of respite in the incessant working of the default network, have — if mildly — protective effects for Alzheimer disease?" he conjectured.

    Pagnoni noted one potential failing of the study was that the volunteers experienced in Zen meditation might have some innate capacity for controlling their thoughts, explaining the differences seen. Ideally, scientists could track novices as they grow experienced in Zen meditation, to see if their brains change or not, he said.

    The research, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, is detailed online Sept. 3 in the journal PLoS ONE.

    http://www.livescience.com/health/08090 ... ation.html
    ABSTRACT: “Thinking about Not-Thinking”: Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing during Zen Meditation

    Giuseppe Pagnoni1*, Milos Cekic2, Ying Guo3

    1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America, 2 Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America, 3 Department of Biostatistics, The Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America
    Abstract

    Recent neuroimaging studies have identified a set of brain regions that are metabolically active during wakeful rest and consistently deactivate in a variety the performance of demanding tasks. This “default network” has been functionally linked to the stream of thoughts occurring automatically in the absence of goal-directed activity and which constitutes an aspect of mental behavior specifically addressed by many meditative practices. Zen meditation, in particular, is traditionally associated with a mental state of full awareness but reduced conceptual content, to be attained via a disciplined regulation of attention and bodily posture. Using fMRI and a simplified meditative condition interspersed with a lexical decision task, we investigated the neural correlates of conceptual processing during meditation in regular Zen practitioners and matched control subjects. While behavioral performance did not differ between groups, Zen practitioners displayed a reduced duration of the neural response linked to conceptual processing in regions of the default network, suggesting that meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation.
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad ... ne.0003083

  2. #2

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Cool.

    W

  3. #3

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Clare will be interested in this, they are starting to look at 'mindfullness training' at her work for use with mental health clients they deal with (she is an occupational therapist).

    One problm she has had recently is that Jehovas Witnesses and some Christians are refusing to do even some thing termed as 'relaxation' for some bizarre notion of them may be tuning in to the dark side, never mind terming it meditation or guided visualisation. Even when she's said they only need to sit quiet, breath etc. they won't have it!

  4. #4

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Well that's good to hear.....

    ...meditating regularly by screaming in a towel while stomping their feet on the ground, or that they were communicating frequently with beings of other planets..
    but that's what I do - is it where I have been going wrong all these years?

    Kind regards

    Jools

  5. #5
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    This is both exciting and interesting news!

    As someone who has suffered from anxiety in the past and mind distractions, I know first hand (without 'scientific' evidence) that zazen is a tremendous mind-calmer. Both myself and my husband see the changes it has brought.

    But to see the evidence and have others prove that zazen indeed has a tremendous impact on the brain is very amazing. I would love to see zazen or just basic breathing/concentration activities integrated into the school systems. What an impact that would have on all the 'troubled' youth...

    Thanks for posting this Jundo,
    Kelly Rok

  6. #6

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Good stuff. There is something hedonistic about science, a great pleasure in having facts instead of time-wasting personal opinions.

  7. #7

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Good stuff. There is something hedonistic about science, a great pleasure in having facts instead of time-wasting personal opinions.
    An orgy of empiricism. :wink:

    meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation.
    spontaneous mentation.... :lol:

    Thanks, Jundo!

  8. #8

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    if anyone caught the leo dicaprio(i know, he needs some facial hair) film re:howard hughes, at the end they had an interview with some guy using a similar technique successfully with obsessive compulsive disorder --- in the clinic, i was able to use it with anxiety disorders with some success, of course, had to call it "relaxation therapy", so as to not use the "m" word -- and the "z" word would have probably resulted in some form of picketing outside the clinic

    only problem i've noticed,it is possible to get stuck, once again, half way there,(not the nice middle path), where one has conceptual awareness, but weak true awareness, resulting in what the texts call "hypervigilance" -- kind of a neurotic zen -- the self is then actually strengthened, in some king of "checking" behavior

    gassho, bob

  9. #9

    Re: SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT!

    That sure doesn't sound good, Bob.

    Anyway, I'm just checking in to say I sat with Jundo's zenandbrain sit-a-long last night. Wow, Jundo! The thoughts going around in your head.... :mrgreen:

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