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Neurochemistry of meditation. - Dhamma Wheel

Neurochemistry of meditation.

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Moog
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Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:22 am

I've asked a similar question before on another forum, but did not receive a very satisfying response.

Does anyone have any idea what goes on in the brain when one meditates? Has there been any science published that I might refer to?

:anjali:

Jack
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Jack » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:33 am


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Dmytro
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Dmytro » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:51 am

Hi Moog,

There's a lot of research on this topic, I think you'll find useful the links:

http://dhamma.ru/forum/index.php?topic= ... 30#msg8130

Best wishes, Dmytro


Moggalana
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moggalana » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:40 am

A lot of EEG and neuroimaging (mainly MRT and fMRT) studies have been done. One of the most active group are the people around Richard Davidson (http://www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/) but it's a rapidly growing field of research with new research centers popping up everywhere.

I haven't come across studies that investigated the neurochemistry specifically but Leigh Brasington updated his Jhana webpage recently with a tentative hypothesis of how the jhana factors might interact with neurotransmitters: http://www.leighb.com/jhananeuro.htm
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.

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Moog
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:20 pm

Cool, you guys are awesome. Many thanks!

:anjali:

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m0rl0ck
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:59 pm

You can always get the latest by checking out sciencedaily.com http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=meditation
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

Calahand
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Calahand » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:46 pm


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Moog
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:22 pm

That's incredibly interesting to me right now, Calahand. I suspect that I have undiagnosed ADHD/executive function disorder and am mildly autistic. This suggests that I have an underdeveloped fore brain. I feel that meditation practice has been very useful to me in alleviating a lot of these problems. I would like to help spread the good word about meditation to other folk like myself, and cogent scientific research is always very useful.

I am very grateful to you all for the information you point me to.

The study there mentions 'transcendental meditation'. What exactly is this kind of meditation?

:anjali:

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Kim OHara
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:07 am


Calahand
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Calahand » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:50 am


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andre9999
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby andre9999 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:19 pm


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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Anicca » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:25 pm


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Moog
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:56 pm


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Moog
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:58 pm


unspoken
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby unspoken » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:25 am


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Moog
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Moog » Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:22 pm


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Dmytro
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:22 pm



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Nibbida
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Nibbida » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:55 pm

Here is one of the most comprehensive reviews, which is very technical if you're not a specialist:



In terms of electrical activity (EEG):
1. Increased alpha, more towards the frontal lobes
2. Increased theta, especially in frontal midline areas
3. More synchrony in the alpha and theta ranges, meaning various areas of the brain fire electrical signals in sync with each other
4. Increased gamma, probably corresponding to feelings of joy (piti)

What's interesting is elevated alpha and theta would be considered abnormal and pathological in most people. They usually happen when there's a mental or neurological illness. However, certain kinds of alpha and theta are are related to awareness and concentration, and this is what meditation seems to strengthen (i.e. not all alpha and theta waves are created equal.)

Look at this picture:

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 11 17.46.jpg

1. Long term mediators (LTM) had more frontal theta and alpha compared to short term meditators
2. The amount of frontal theta correlated with greater bliss and less thoughts popping up.


Anatomically:
1. Thicker prefrontal cortex (greater use of any brain area tends to thicken it)
2. Lack of normal age-related atrophy in elderly meditators (brain stayed thicker)
3. Some other brain areas (this area is exploding with new studies)

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Kim OHara
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:26 am

At the opposite techniciality-extreme from Nibbida's recommendation is an article in the most recent New Scientist. It gives an overview, mentioning a lot of different research groups, and basically says, 'Yes, meditation works and can make your life better,' which is at least a better conclusion than the alternative, 'No, it's all hokum,' that we used to see.
:namaste:
Kim

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Nibbida
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Re: Neurochemistry of meditation.

Postby Nibbida » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:30 pm

Hee hee. Well, he did ask what was happening in the brain...

It is the hope of some people, including the Dalai Lama, that understanding the neurobiology of meditation and enlightenment will help us find ways to facilitate the process. Of course it wouldn't do the work for a person, but it might be like working out in a gym in order to facilitate one's tennis game. You still need to practice tennis.

In this video Shinzen Young contemplates how churning out millions of stream-enterers or even Arahants could affect the planet:



What would such a world look like?


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