Meditation Study: Examination Term Paper

Length: 9 pages Sources: 9 Subject: Psychology Type: Term Paper Paper: #73435469 Related Topics: Homeostasis, Memory Loss, Spss, Time Warp 3
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Ground-Breaking Meditation Research: A Comparison of Presentations

Holzel and colleagues performed the study "Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density" as a result of the fact that little is known about the neural mechanisms that are impacted by specific forms of mindfulness meditation and comparable interventions. While some interventions are known to be more effective than others, there aren't a lot of details available about the precisely positive changes which can occur in the gray matter of one's brain as a result of effective and critically acclaimed techniques like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Holzel and colleagues were able to confirm that the changes occurred were ones which specifically were connected to the gray matter in areas of the brain where the bulk of the learning process, memory processes, emotional regulation and perspective taking manifested. For example, one area of the brain that the study examined was the hippocampus, an area of the brain that looks like seahorse and which is divided into left and right hemispheres. The hippocampus is the area of the brain which deals directly with the creation of long-term memories and even spatial navigation: thus when an individual has to deal with a disease as crippling as Alzheimer's can be, the hippocampus is one of the primary areas of the brain which starts to deteriorate, leading to issues like memory loss or confusion. This is an area of the brain which can be very sensitive to oxygen loss. People who develop amnesia are often ones with damage to this area of the brain, preventing them from forming new memories.

The researchers looked at all areas of the brain and sought to determine how mindfulness meditation was impacting them. For example, the frontal lobes in the cerebral cortex were examined, as they are prime areas within the largest part of the brain's structures and control higher cognitive structures such as attention and thought processing, along with decision-making skills. Issues in the frontal lobes such as damage or poor or incomplete development can often lead to a range of disorders such as ADHD or schizophrenia. Researchers also looked at the parietal cortex, the part of the brain which has a tremendous role in the integration of information from a range of the body's five sense so that a coherent view of the world is able to be put together. Information is integrated from visual pathways, helping to assemble a picture of what and where things are allowing basic functions like spatial mapping and number representation to occur. When damage occurs to this region of the brain, issues like a loss of sensation in the body, along with issues in understanding speech. The temporal lobe is another massive part of the brain and which houses a range of substructures, including areas which are responsible for face recognition and memory acquisition along with understanding language. Damage to this area means that issues in understanding, learning and memory can manifest, as a result of certain cognitive disorders, including severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Another arena of the brain that this study looked at was the cerebellum which supervises motor behavior and automatic movements along with learning and attention: this is a small area of the brain, but is one which contains the most neurons. Many of the analyses in this study involve looking at the areas like the posterior cingular cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum

Other areas like the occipital cortex, which is the main visual area of the brain receives were not examined as closely or as targeted in this study. The brain stem is another area which is not as targeted in this study which contains structures that control homeostasis in the body by supervising automatic functions like breathing and certain automatic movements.

Methods and Performance of the Study

The participants of the study were all people who were taking part in MBSR courses at the University of Massachusetts; these classes were primarily marketed for stress reduction. Participants had to be both physically and psychologically healthy and not taking any

...

Other criteria for inclusion in the study were that they couldn't have taken meditation in the last half of a year, and with no more than five classes in the past five years and no more than ten classes their entire lifetime (Holzel, 2011). Ultimately, the study consisted of 18 participants, 10 female, eight male with a mean age of 37.89 years. The control sample had 17 participants: 11 male and 6 female (Holzel, 2011).

The MBSR program consists of eight weekly group meetings which are a couple hours, along with one full day during the ae-makr of the course. The mindfulness training activities were designed to help develop the individual's capacity for awareness in a compassionate non-judgmental manner as participants are taught how to investigate what feels appropriate for themselves with regard to the sensations in their body and their own body's limitation. All participants received audio recording which contained 45-minute mindfulness exercises that they had to use at home and didactic instructions were also given regarding the use of mindfulness in coping with the stress of daily life (Holzel, 2011). Furthermore the five-facet-mindfulness-questionnaire was also used to measure the five factors of mindfulness (such as with regard to observing, describing, acting, non-judging, and non-reactivity) and was measured on a five-point Likert scale.

With all of these factors going on, the participants were scanned at a center for biomedical imaging in the two weeks before the program and the two weeks after the program. Participants in the control group were also scanned twice, two months apart.

The data images of the brain were gathered using the T1 weighted MPRAGE sequence and the image assessment was engaged in with the voxel-based morphoemtry along with neuroimaging statistical software. Researchers aligned the images collected by hand in accordance to the anterior commissure and then placed into gray and white matter in the space. For each person the gray matter portions were spatially co-registered with normalization parameters calculated for the pre- and post-images (Holzel, 2011). The normalization parameters were assessed for the pre-scan and then used for both the time points so that the regional differences among the images were not eliminated by the scan-specific normalization (Holzel, 2011). Once all these factors were engaged in, the researchers were able to put forth an exploratory whole brain analysis in addition to the region of interest analyses with bilateral hippocampi and bilateral insulae created using specialized software (Holzel, 2011). The ROI assessment has a spatial-concentration; the researchers selected multiple comparisons within the ROI. Thus, the researchers decided upon a cluster-wise method for the whole exploratory brain analysis as a means of correcting multiple comparisons around the entire brain; in order for this to work, clusters had to exceed the size of 250 voxels (Holzel, 2011). In this regard, follow-up tests were then engaged in to text for the significance when compared with the control group and with values taken from the identified clusters for each person were assessed using the Marsbar toolbox (Holzel, 2011). ANOVA was then engaged in for each cluster and with each group so that subjects could win within the factor. Groups were not identical in terms of their age and gender, and thus, these variables were controlled by deeming them as nuisance variables (Holzel, 2011).

Findings of the Study

The researchers found that the participants largely spent an average of 22.6 hours focuses on formal homework exercises over an eight-week course, with the average being 27 minutes each day. The ANOVA measurements largely found that the group-by-time interactions for the three of the five mindfulness subscales manifested as follows: (behaving with awareness: F (1,26) = 16.87, P < 0.001; observing: F (1,26) = 7.09, P = 0.013; non-judging: F (1,26) = 4.61, P = 0.041; describing: F (1,26) = 1.95, P = 0.175; non-reactivity: F (1,26) = 2.79, P = 0.107) (Holzel, 2011). The paired t-tests also validated that there were marked increases within the MBSR group but not within the control group: the MBSR group was able to markedly increase their levels of mindfulness according to the three set scales (Holzel, 2011). In addition to this finding, it was also discovered that there were marked changes in gray matter particularly in the regions of interest in the brain: a small cluster located in the left hippocampus had an increased concentration of gray matter: (the highest voxel MNI coordinates x, y, z: 36, ?34, ?8; t (15) = 6.89; voxel level P = 0.014, were adjusted for several comparisons with the cluster size being k= 30) (Holzel, 2011). Researchers then averaged the total gray matter concentration within the cluster, extracting it for each individual at each specific time point, using a Marsbar toolbox and continuing to analyze the numbers in SPSS:

The averaged gray matter concentration within this cluster was then extracted for each individual at each time-point using the Marsbar toolbox and further analyses were performed in SPSS. More ANOVA measurements were engaged…

Sources Used in Documents:

References

Bhanoo, S. (2011). How Meditation May Change the Brain. Retrieved from nytimes.com: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Holzel, B., Carmody, J., & Vangel, M. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res, 36 -- 43.


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