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

their brain's hand map when they made the attentional shift than the six people who did not have mindfulness training.

Mindful computational model

In addition to the emerging experimental evidence, the research framework is also informed by a computer model that Jones has developed to simulate the alpha brainwaves through reciprocal interactions between the cortex, which processes information and thoughts, and the thalamus, which is like a switchboard that mediates information flow from the rest of the brain to the cortex. The model is well validated in that it produces alpha rhythms that closely match those observed in live MEG scans of real subjects.

Jones, assistant professor (research) of neuroscience, did not originally develop the model to aid meditation research.

"We were investigating what are the brain mechanisms that can create this prominent alpha rhythm and mediate its impact on sensory processing," Jones said. "The model simulates the electrical activity of neural networks and makes very specific predictions about how this rhythm is generated. Once we understand the brain processes regulating alpha rhythm expression, we can better understand how it can be modulated with mindfulness practice and why this is beneficial."

Among the most important predictions is one that could explain how gaining control of alpha rhythms not only enhances sensory focus on a particular area of the body, but also helps people overcome persistent competing stimuli, such as depressive thoughts or chronic pain signals.

To accomplish this, the model predicts, meditators must achieve proper control over the relative timing and strength of alpha rhythms generated from two separate regions of the thalamus, called thalamic nuclei, that talk to different parts of the cortex. One alpha generator would govern the local "tuning in," for instance of sensations in a hand, while the other would govern the broader "tuning
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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