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Profile Sarge
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Message 598239 - Posted: 4 Jul 2007, 5:41:33 UTC

Brain Scans Reveal Why Meditation Works

Melinda Wenner
Special to LiveScience
LiveScience.com Sat Jun 30, 1:35 PM ET

If you name your emotions, you can tame them, according to new research that suggests why meditation works.

Brain scans show that putting negative emotions into words calms the brain's emotion center. That could explain meditation’s purported emotional benefits, because people who meditate often label their negative emotions in an effort to “let them go.”

Psychologists have long believed that people who talk about their feelings have more control over them, but they don't know why it works.

UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman and his colleagues hooked 30 people up to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines, which scan the brain to reveal which parts are active and inactive at any given moment.

They asked the subjects to look at pictures of male or female faces making emotional expressions. Below some of the photos was a choice of words describing the emotion—such as “angry” or “fearful”—or two possible names for the people in the pictures, one male name and one female name.

When presented with these choices, the subjects were asked to pick the most appropriate emotion or gender-appropriate name to fit the face they saw.

When the participants chose labels for the negative emotions, activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region—an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences—became more active, whereas activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, was calmed.

By contrast, when the subjects picked appropriate names for the faces, the brain scans revealed none of these changes—indicating that only emotional labeling makes a difference.

“In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses,” Lieberman said of his study, which is detailed in the current issue of Psychological Science.

In a second experiment, 27 of the same subjects completed questionnaires to determine how “mindful” they are.

Meditation and other “mindfulness” techniques are designed to help people pay more attention to their present emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting strongly to them. Meditators often acknowledge and name their negative emotions in order to “let them go.”

When the team compared brain scans from subjects who had more mindful dispositions to those from subjects who were less mindful, they found a stark difference—the mindful subjects experienced greater activation in the right ventrolateral prefrontral cortex and a greater calming effect in the amygdala after labeling their emotions.

“These findings may help explain the beneficial health effects of mindfulness meditation, and suggest, for the first time, an underlying reason why mindfulness meditation programs improve mood and health,” said David Creswell, a UCLA psychologist who led the second part of the study, which will be detailed in Psychosomatic Medicine.
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Message 601640 - Posted: 11 Jul 2007, 6:08:08 UTC

Post moved per Sarge's request.

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Message 605382 - Posted: 18 Jul 2007, 11:12:16 UTC

Don't know exactly whether or not this belongs here...
But I want to put this thought as a question

I read that both, the signals of our senses, and hallucinations/imaginations are "arriving" in the same areas of our brain, and only are differed by comparing the contents: what input is more relevant, more possible according to our experience/knowledge/expectations than the other one. So, as I understand it, people sense what they expect to sense.
That's why my question, speaking about physical evidence: what if our senses (touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) are lying to us, and we only imagine to sense anything, even to communicate?

    People even burn their skin when they expect the place they're touching is hot...
    they don't even bleed when they expect no harm were done...
    they even get healthy by a salt solution or some glucose pills because they expect its real medicine...



If the human mind is so manipulatable, then how - except by comparison to former experience/knowledge/expectations - can you guarantee that you're not hallucinating, that your senses are not spoofed?
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Message 605536 - Posted: 18 Jul 2007, 18:09:30 UTC - in response to Message 605382.

Don't know exactly whether or not this belongs here...
But I want to put this thought as a question

I read that both, the signals of our senses, and hallucinations/imaginations are "arriving" in the same areas of our brain, and only are differed by comparing the contents: what input is more relevant, more possible according to our experience/knowledge/expectations than the other one. So, as I understand it, people sense what they expect to sense.
That's why my question, speaking about physical evidence: what if our senses (touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) are lying to us, and we only imagine to sense anything, even to communicate?
    People even burn their skin when they expect the place they're touching is hot...
    they don't even bleed when they expect no harm were done...
    they even get healthy by a salt solution or some glucose pills because they expect its real medicine...



If the human mind is so manipulatable, then how - except by comparison to former experience/knowledge/expectations - can you guarantee that you're not hallucinating, that your senses are not spoofed?



Ah, Thorin, this is a very thorny issue indeed, and it has occupied philosophers for a very long time indeed.

For instance, consider Anaxarchus (c. 380 - c. 320 BCE). Quoting from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Anaxarchus was accused of abolishing the criterion of truth because he likened things to painted scenery and said they resemble the experiences of dreamers and madmen (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 7 87-8). This suggests that the things that we take ourselves to be acquainted with in ordinary experience, such as trees and rocks, are merely representations, like painted scenery, not the objects themselves at all. Furthermore, these experiences cannot be relied upon to get us at the truth: we are in no better position than are dreamers and madmen, people whose experiences are paradigmatically false (or at least untrustworthy).



In somewhat more modern times, the philosopher René Descartes (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650) stated in his Discourse on Method (1637): "Je pense, donc je suis". Translated to Latin "Cognito, ergo sum" or English "I think, therefore I am". In this statement, he identifies that the only proof of one's existance, since sensory evidence cannot be trusted, is one's capacity for reasoning. "Capacity for Doubt implies Capacity for Reason implies Existance" would be a more complete statement of this.

Many many other philosophers down through the ages have weighed in on this issue. It is unlikely to ever be resolved.

My own philosophy on this issue is: "Doubt the senses, but don't ignore them. Do not trust everything you see, hear, read, or otherwise perceive, but instead test, experiment, and apply reason until you are personally satisfied as to its validity or lack thereof".

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