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Thread: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

  1. #1

    Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Hi,

    As a follow-up to recent thread concerning Zazen practice as helpful to those suffering from anxiety, panic, depression and other like conditions ...

    viewtopic.php?p=56300#p56300

    also

    viewtopic.php?p=56387#p56387

    viewtopic.php?p=31554#p31554

    Some recent medical research related to this. For me, it is just common sense and no surprise ... for any practice founded on not becoming tangled in run-a-way thoughts and emotions, and allowing the mind to still, is bound to have such effects on conditions based on harmful thoughts and emotions ...

    A new brain imaging study led by researchers at Yale University shows how people who regularly practise meditation are able to switch off areas of the brain linked to daydreaming, anxiety, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. The brains of experienced meditators appear to show less activity in an area known as the "default mode network", which is linked to largely self-centred thinking. The researchers suggest through monitoring and suppressing or "tuning out" the "me" thoughts, meditators develop a new default mode, which is more present-centred.

    A report of their findings is due to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    ... " ... the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one's own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect"
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/238093.php

  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    I think the terms "switch off" and "tune out" are not ideal. First, I don't think that's what's actually happening; I think it's simply that the brain gives less priority to different stimuli. Second, it reinforces that common notion that when meditating one is a zombie.

    I like to think of it as the brain giving more or less priority to attend to specific stimuli or thoughts. Kind of like the "nice" command in Unix:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nice_(Unix)

    Meditation helps change the niceness of certain thoughts and feelings.

    My two bits...

  3. #3

    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I think the terms "switch off" and "tune out" are not ideal. First, I don't think that's what's actually happening; I think it's simply that the brain gives less priority to different stimuli. Second, it reinforces that common notion that when meditating one is a zombie.

    I like to think of it as the brain giving more or less priority to attend to specific stimuli or thoughts. Kind of like the "nice" command in Unix:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nice_(Unix)

    Meditation helps change the niceness of certain thoughts and feelings.

    My two bits...
    I feel that is right, Kirk. I picked a misleading name for this thread. Gassho, J

  4. #4

    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    If people with certain psycho pathologies practiced zazen or mindfulness, they might find that psychotropic medication (i.e. antidepressants etc.) won't be needed. It is generally recommended that one received medication and therapy experiencing depression, anxiety and the like. There are more "scientific" approaches to manage anxiety and depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm pretty sure this is based on the contemplative religions philosophies such as Buddhism.

    Gassho,

    Matt

  5. #5
    disastermouse
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    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    If people with certain psycho pathologies practiced zazen or mindfulness, they might find that psychotropic medication (i.e. antidepressants etc.) won't be needed. It is generally recommended that one received medication and therapy experiencing depression, anxiety and the like. There are more "scientific" approaches to manage anxiety and depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm pretty sure this is based on the contemplative religions philosophies such as Buddhism.

    Gassho,

    Matt
    This is a tempting thought for a lot of people, but it can also be a bit dangerous to think Zen can treat psych issues all by itself. Zen 'treats' the common madness of 'samsarism', and there's plenty of that in anxiety disorders, but perhaps Zen should just be a parallel practice to therapy and anxiolytics at first. Safety, responsibility and all that...

    Just my thoughts though!

    Chet

  6. #6
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    I agree with Chet. I know a few people with such problems, and I think it's a bit naive to think that meditation can magically cure them.

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    I agree with Jundo. Somehow this is something we might feel it was natural for sitters, but it's freaking awesome that science keeps on studying the mind so we have a better understanding on the internal processes.

    And of course I agree with you guys. I also know a lot of people who suffer of anxiety and depression and are under constant medication and maybe a little bit of Zen would help them a lot.

  8. #8

    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I agree with Chet. I know a few people with such problems, and I think it's a bit naive to think that meditation can magically cure them.
    I agree. Zazen is not a "cure" for everything ... although we embrace everything, both sickness and health. I sometimes write this ...

    [In] the very stillness of letting life be "as is it" and embracing all of life ... and in dropping the hard borders and divisions between our "self" and the world ... this practice does thereby leave almost all people better ... and often does work an effective cure (or is one helpful part of the cure) ... from depression, stress, addiction, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, anger issues, self loathing ... you name it.

    ... I suspect that Shikantaza ... in its quietness, in the total stillness and acceptance ... would be something helpful with the Anxiety you describe ...

    Zazen is -NOT- a cure for many things ... it will not fix a bad tooth (just allow you to be present with the toothache ... you had better see a dentist, not a Zen teacher), cure cancer (although it may have some healthful effects and make one more attune to the process of chemotherapy and/or dying), etc. Zen practice will not cure your acne on your face, or fix your flat tire. All it will do is let one "be at one, and whole" ... TRULY ONE ... with one's pimples and punctured wheel, accepting and embracing of each, WHOLLY WHOLE with/as each one. There are many psychological problems or psycho/medical problems such as alcoholism that may require other therapies, although Zen can be part of a 12-Step program or such (a few Zen teachers in America with a drinking problem had to seek outside help). My feeling is that some things ... are probably best handled by medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment, not Zen teachers.
    Gassho, J

  9. #9

    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    If people with certain psycho pathologies practiced zazen or mindfulness, they might find that psychotropic medication (i.e. antidepressants etc.) won't be needed. It is generally recommended that one received medication and therapy experiencing depression, anxiety and the like. There are more "scientific" approaches to manage anxiety and depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm pretty sure this is based on the contemplative religions philosophies such as Buddhism.

    Gassho,

    Matt
    This is a tempting thought for a lot of people, but it can also be a bit dangerous to think Zen can treat psych issues all by itself. Zen 'treats' the common madness of 'samsarism', and there's plenty of that in anxiety disorders, but perhaps Zen should just be a parallel practice to therapy and anxiolytics at first. Safety, responsibility and all that...

    Just my thoughts though!

    Chet
    Chet,

    I agree with you completely, however, for common "issues" (stress, anxiety, miled depression), a lot more people could benefit greatly from this practice over running to the doctor and asking for a quick pill to make them feel better. I have friends who NEED the right medications to help them function in life, but being in the psych field, I often see an overuse of these medications. Just my 2 cents .

    Gassho,

    Matt

  10. #10

    Re: Medical Research: How Meditation Switches Off the Brain

    Hi everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Some recent medical research related to this. For me, it is just common sense and no surprise ... for any practice founded on not becoming tangled in run-a-way thoughts and emotions, and allowing the mind to still, is bound to have such effects on conditions based on harmful thoughts and emotions ...

    A new brain imaging study led by researchers at Yale University shows how people who regularly practise meditation are able to switch off areas of the brain linked to daydreaming, anxiety, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. The brains of experienced meditators appear to show less activity in an area known as the "default mode network", which is linked to largely self-centred thinking. The researchers suggest through monitoring and suppressing or "tuning out" the "me" thoughts, meditators develop a new default mode, which is more present-centred.

    A report of their findings is due to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    ... " ... the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one's own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect"
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/238093.php
    Thanks for this info, Jundo. Indeed, over time regular meditation does seem to effect the mind this way, its very simple and effective.

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