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A neural basis for benefits of meditation
Date:2/13/2013

nds of cognitive and emotional benefits that mindfulness confers," said lead author Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine at the Alpert Medical School and director of translational neuroscience for the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown.

Experimental evidence

In experiments that Kerr and neuroscientist co-authors Stephanie Jones and Christopher Moore have published over the last few years, the team has used a brain imaging technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to show that alpha rhythms in the cortex correlate with sensory attention and that the ability to regulate localized alpha brainwaves on a millisecond scale is more distinct in people who have had standardized mindfulness training than in those who have not. The trio led these experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Massachusettes General Hospital before they all came to Brown in 2011.

In one experiment published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2010, they observed that when people focused their attention on sensations in the left hand, the corresponding "map" for the hand in the cortex showed a marked drop in alpha wave amplitude (as if to reduce filtering there). When the subjects' attention shifted away from that body part, the alpha rhythm amplitude in the corresponding brain map went back up (as if restoring the alpha filter). Other research groups have shown this to be the case for other kinds of attention-related tasks including focusing spatial attention and working memory.

Then in 2011 in Brain Research Bulletin, the team published another paper. They randomized subjects to eight weeks of mindfulness training versus a control group. In MEG, they asked members of each group to focus attention on sensations in their hand and then to switch their attention to their foot. The people trained in mindfulness displayed quicker and larger changes in alpha wave amplitude in
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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