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Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) for 5 days induces neuroplastic changes in areas of self-regulation

“We were able to show that the training improved the connection between a central nervous system structure, the anterior cingulate, and the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system to help put a person into a more bodily state,” Posner said. “The results seem to show integration — a connectivity of brain and body.”

see link for study HERE.

How do these changes speak to state vs. trait-level changes in self-regulation? 5 Days of training is a short period of time to show such changes, but they are likely to disappear within the same amount of time. Continued practice is clearly essential for sustained trait-level changes.


Can Meditation improve Attention?

What types of meditation improve attention? And what types of attention? There appears to be some data that suggest “mindfulness training” will improve orienting ( a component of attention proposed by Posner and colleagues). There appears to be less an effect on shifting attention and engagement of attention. How about the phenomenon of “Change Blindness” or “Attentional Blink” or “conjunction search” or “binding of features”? How does improvement of attention benefit the human condition, improve resilience to psychopathology, and improve overall general well-being? Are these effects on attention directly related to improvements in working memory? How so?


Compassion Meditation May Improve Physical and Emotional Responses to Psychological Stress

Data from a new study suggests that individuals who engage in compassion meditation may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress that have been linked to depression and a number of medical illnesses. The study’s findings are published online at and in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices designed to specifically foster compassion,” says Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, who designed and taught the meditation program used in the study. Negi is senior lecturer in the Department of Religion, the co-director of Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies and president and spiritual director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

This study focused on the effect of compassion meditation on inflammatory, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress, and evaluated the degree to which engagement in meditation practice influenced stress reactivity.

“Our findings suggest that meditation practices designed to foster compassion may impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and are relevant to disease,” explains Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program, Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory School of Medicine, and a lead author on the study.

click HERE for the original link.

The Science of Buddhist Meditation

The University of Liverpool is sponsoring an event concerning the science of Buddhist Meditation November 09, 2008. The Link is HERE. The abstract follows:

Increasingly scientific investigations suggest that Buddhist meditators are happier, have improved cognitive abilities and that meditation practice leads to measurable changes in brain activity. Four experts from psychology, psychotherapy, neuroscience and philosophy present and discuss the evidence from a scientific as well as Buddhist perspective, also drawing on their experience with meditation practice and as Buddhist lay teachers.

From 28 July to 01 August 2008 an International Summer School on Buddhism entitled Buddhism into the 21st Century will take place in Hamburg, organised by the prestigous Center for Buddhist Studies. This summer school is open to everybody interested in the topic. Peter Malinowski will be teaching on “Buddhism and Science – Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives”.
For more information visit:

Watch Peter talking about Meditation techniques and their relevance in everyday life on UK Future TV:
Uk Future TV
direct link to the stream [wmv 700kbps]

Zen Meditators Show faster return to resting state

Giuseppe Pagnoni, a Neuroscientist in the dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University just recently published a study on Zen Meditators and fMRI.

Using fMRI and a simplified meditative condition interspersed with a lexical decision task, they 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. See the entire article published in PLoS ONE HERE.

The article received press in The New Scientist. “The closest thing to Jedi Mind Tricks” See HERE.

Researchers on retreat: Reflections and Mistakes

“House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)

Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D is the  medical director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. His primary research interests are in mindfulness training as a mechanistic probe and treatment for addictions. He can be contacted at”

Judson reflects upon his 10-day Vipassana and Metta retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, which is located just north of San Francisco in beautiful Marin county. Led by two “teams” of teachers (metta: Guy Armstrong, Sally Clough Armstrong, Heather Martin, Sharda Rogell; vipassana: Joseph Goldstein, Andrea Fella, Kamala Masters, Steve Armstrong.) Judson writes, “After I went on retreat in July, I wrote down a few of my ongoing habit patterns that became more clear to me, many of which related to science. I remembered hearing many comments and questions from folks at both the MLSRI and scientists retreat about similar issues to which I have/had been struggling, and thought that “publishing” my reflections might be helpful for others who are working with the same “stuff” in their minds that I am.”

You can read his reflections, “Top 10 rookie Mistakes of a Dharma Scientist” HERE.

Self-Report Measures of Mindfulness

In NO particular order of preference:

1. Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) [Link] – The FFMQ, revised from the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, is used to assess the construct of mindfulness. Previous research on assessment of mindfulness by self-report suggests that it may include five component skills: observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience. These elements of mindfulness can be measured with the FFMQ.

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., et al. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27-45. [link]

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., et al. (2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15(3), 329-42. [link]

Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2009). Differential item function across meditators and non-meditators on the five facet mindfulness questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(5), 516-521. [link]

2. Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) – A 15-item, reverse-scored, 7-point scale (1 = almost always; 6 = almost never) self-report instrument with a single factor measuring attention to and awareness across several domains of experience in daily life (e.g., cognitive, emotional, physical, and general), such as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.” Respondents rate how often they have experiences of acting on automatic pilot, being preoccupied and not paying attention in the present moment. The MAAS has a uni-dimensional factor structure that eliminated attitudinal components (i.e., acceptance) given the author’s findings of such components offering no explanatory advantage (Brown and Ryan, 2003). The MAAS appears to have appropriate application in research examining the role of mindfulness in the psychological well-being of college, working adults, and cancer patients, with or without comparisons to nonclinical controls.

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-48. [link]

Carlson, L. E., & Brown, K. W. (2005). Validation of the mindful attention awareness scale in a cancer population. J Psychosom Res, 58(1), 29. [link]

MacKillop, J., & Anderson, E. J. (2007). Further psychometric validation of the mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(4), 289-293.[link]

Cordon, S. L., & Finney, S. J. (2008). Measurement invariance of the mindful attention awareness scale across adult attachment style. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 40(4), 18. [link]

Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]

Christopher, M. S., Charoensuk, S., Gilbert, B. D., Neary, T. J., & Pearce, K. L. (2009). Mindfulness in thailand and the united states: A case of apples versus oranges? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 590-612. [link]

Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Borders, A. (2010). Measuring mindfulness? An item response theory analysis of the mindful attention awareness scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 805. [link]

3.Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) – A 13-item, two-factor structure (Curiosity, Decentering), uniquely state-oriented for use immediately following a meditation experience, has been validated in a number of clinical contexts. The items of Factor 1 (Curiosity) reflect an attitude of wanting to learn more about one’s experiences. The items of Factor 2 (Decentering) reflect a shift from identifying personally with thoughts and feelings to relating to one’s experience in a wider field of awareness

Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., et al. (2006). The toronto mindfulness scale: Development and validation. J Clin Psychol, 62(12), 1445. [link]

Davis, K. M., Lau, M. A., & Cairns, D. R. (2009). Development and preliminary validation of a trait version of the toronto mindfulness scale. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 185-197. [link]

4. The Revised 12-item Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS-R)  uni-dimensional, 12-item inventory that measures mindfulness during general daily occurrences on four components allegedly needed to reach a mindful state (i.e., attention, awareness, present-focus, and acceptance/nonjudgment). 

Feldman, G., Hayes, A., Kumar, S., et al. (2007). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: The development and initial validation of the cognitive and affective mindfulness scale-revised (CAMS-R). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(3), 177-190.[link]

5. The Southampton Mindfulness Questionnaire (SMQ) – uni-dimensional, 16-item inventory assessing the degree to which individuals respond to distressing thoughts and images using four aspects of mindfulness (observation, non-aversion, nonjudgment, letting go). Stressing its usefulness in clinical settings, the scale demonstrated to be able to distinguish between meditators and non-meditators and people with psychosis.

6. The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS) The PHLMS is a 20-item, bi-dimensional measure assessing distinct components of present-centered awareness and acceptance that is based on both clinical and non-clinical samples without any meditation experience. Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance:

The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]

Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance: The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]

7. The 30-item Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) – The FMI was designed only for use with individuals who had prior exposure to meditation practices that cultivate mindfulness, to the extent that it was developed qualitatively out of the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Its intention was to discriminate between novice and expert meditators (Walach et al., 2006). 

Buchheld, N., Grossman, P., & Walach, H. (2001). Measuring mindfulness in insight meditation (vipassana) and meditation-based psychotherapy: The development of the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Journal for Meditation and Meditation Research, 1(1), 11-34. [link]

Walach, H., Buchheld, N., Buttenmüller, V., et al. (2006). Measuring mindfulness—the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Personality and Individual Differences, 40(8), 1543-1555. [link]

Kohls, N., Sauer, S., & Walach, H. (2009). Facets of mindfulness–results of an online study investigating the freiburg mindfulness inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(2), 224-230. [link]

8. Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) – developed as a means of determining effectiveness of Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a 39-item multi-dimensional scale of interrelated skills related to what one does while practicing mindfulness, and how one does it. The “what” skills include observing (noticing or attending to) current experience, describing (noting or labeling observed experiences) with words, and participating (focusing full attention on current activity); the “how” skills include being nonjudgmental (accepting, refraining from evaluation), being one-mindful (using undivided attention), and being effective (using skillful means) (Baer et al., 2009). 

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Assessment, 11(3), 191-206. [link]

Dekeyser, M., Raes, F., Leijssen, M., Leysen, S., & Dewulf, D. (2008). Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(5), 1235-1245. [link]

Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]

Nicastro, R., Jermann, F., Bondolfi, G., et al. (2010). Assessment of mindfulness with the french version of the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills in community and borderline personality disorder samples. Assessment, 1-9. [link]

9. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Adherence and Competence Scale (MBRP-AC)

Chawla, N., Collins, S., Bowen, S., et al. (2010). The mindfulness-based relapse prevention adherence and competence scale: Development, interrater reliability, and validity. Psychotherapy Research, 4, 1-10. [link]

10. Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI)

Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: Development and initial validation of the self-other four immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169-181. [link]

11. Self-Compassion Scale [Link]

Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223-250. [link]

Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101. [link]

12. Solloway Mindfulness Survey – The SMS is offered free to teachers and their students. Teachers can download their students’ SMS measures in order to monitor growth in mindfulness. [Link]

13. Acceptance & Action Questionnaire II – AAQ-II – The AAQ-II was developed in order to establish an internally consistent measure of ACT’s model of mental health and behavioral effectiveness. Acceptance was the term used to positively describe this model underlying Acceptance & Commitment Therapy; thus, it is defined as the willingness to experience (i.e., not alter the form, frequency, or sensitivity of) unwanted private events, in the pursuit of one’s values and goals. [Link]

Hayes, S.C., et al., Acceptance and commitment therapy: model, processes and outcomes. Behav Res Ther, 2006. 44(1): p. 1-25. [Link]

See the following link for comprehensive review of current research in the area of mindfulness [Link]

Most of these are still under development. Not all of these scales do a very good job at clearly measuring what is historically referred to by Sati or Smrti.

A review of the self-report scales can be found here [Link]

What is Mindfulness you may ask? Read [Here]

Mindfulness originates from a deeply rooted system of contemplative practice. It is imperative that one consider these cultural and historical concepts in trying to define or operationalize Mindfulness.

One MUST understand the cultural sensitivities involved in the introduction of these practices and therefore encourage you all to approach “mindfulness” and “contemplative practice” as a respectful anthropologist would treat an encounter with an indigenous culture (as Jon K-Z would say), while being careful to not unwittingly ignore or dismiss the deepest and most subtle features of such practices.

Good Luck! I look forward to discussion if needed.

Mind-Body Research Consortium

The Mind-Body Research Consortium is a multi-institution, multi-investigator, collaborative group of psychologists, medical professionals, neuroscientists, clinicians, contemplative practitioners and teachers, and ‘contemplative practices-inspired’ intervention specialists who aim to better understand the basic cognitive and affective changes that occur during contemplative mind-body interventions. Amishi Jha is the principle investigator behind this consortium and is implementing online methods of cognitive and behavioral testing for participating researchers.

Check it out HERE.

The effects of Meditation on Fibromyalgia

Meditation has been shown to have benefits in many clinical disorders. An 8-week course in which women diagnosed with fibromyaliga are practicing mindfulness and meditation skills 5 days/week and meeting once/week for 2 hours, along with 1 full-day retreat at week 6 have shown benefits in attention, stress reduction, and emotion regulation.

David Vago and colleagues at the Utah Center for Exploring Mind-Body Interactions found that women diagnosed with fibromyalgia who went through an 8-week course of mindfulness and meditation training show decreased avoidance of, or attention away from, pain-related threatening words and show less interference from such words when performing an attention-demanding task. Check out the UCSD center for mindfulness blog about the study HERE and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Health Hub Blog HERE.

The article was recently published in Cognitive Therapy and Research [Link]

There is an article in MSN Health citing the study HERE.

Mindfulness Class led by Shirley Ray at Inner Light Center in SLC, UT

Mindfulness Class led by Shirley Ray at Inner Light Center in SLC, UT

The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is a non-profit, 501(c) (3), educational organization dedicated to reviving the spirit and transforming the practice of medicine. The Center is working to create a more effective, comprehensive and compassionate model of healthcare and health education. The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is a great resource for contemplative education and training. The link for the site is HERE.

Recent studies supported by the CMBM follow:


2. Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Postwar Kosovo High School Students Using Mind–Body Skills Groups: A Pilot Study. The article can be found HERE.

The Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior

The Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior is headed by Richard Davidson, PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. You can follow the most recent research taking place in this lab at the website linked HERE.

Peace Talks Radio covers the Waisman Laboratory on a story called, “the Neuroscience of Compassion”. It can be found HERE.

Neuroplasticity and Meditation: Can the brain really change in response to meditation?

Dan Rather reports on the study of Meditation by Neuroscientists and the support of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. One can also see the full report at the HDnet Mindscience program at the following link, HERE.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Neuroplasticity: Dan Rather’s ‘Mind S…“, posted with vodpod

Sara Lazar does a talk on Neuroplasticity and the effects of Meditation on the brain: