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Re: [Meditation Society of America] Mindfulness Meditation Changes Decision-making Process

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  • Caroline Grevelle
    Thank you very much for this article. Caroline On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 10:31 AM, medit8ionsociety
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 21, 2011
      Thank you very much for this article.


      On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 10:31 AM, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      Functional MRI Shows How Mindfulness Meditation
      Changes Decision-making Process
      21 Apr 2011

      If a friend or relative won $100 and then
      offered you a few dollars, would you accept
      this windfall? The logical answer would seem
      to be, sure, why not? "But human decision making
      does not always appear rational," said Read
      Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech
      and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory
      at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

      According to research conducted over the last
      three decades; only about one-fourth of us would
      say, "Sure. Thanks." The rest would say, "But
      that's not fair. You have lots. Why are you only
      giving me a few?" In fact, people will even turn
      down any reward rather than accept an 'unfair' share.

      Unless they are Buddhist meditators, in which
      case fair or not more than half will take what
      is offered, according to new research by Ulrich
      Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human
      Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech; Jonathan
      Downar, assistant professor with the Neuropsychiatry
      Clinic and the Centre for Addition and Mental
      Health at the University of Toronto; and Montague,
      published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers
      in Decision Neuroscience.

      Their research shows that Buddhist meditators use
      different areas of the brain than other people
      when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them
      to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally.
      The meditators had trained their brains to function
      differently and make better choices in certain situations.

      The research "highlights the clinically and
      socially important possibility that sustained
      training in mindfulness meditation may impact
      distinct domains of human decision making,"
      the researchers write.

      The research came about when Montague wondered
      whether some people are capable of ignoring the
      social consideration of fairness and can appreciate
      a reward based on its intrinsic qualities alone.
      "That is," he said, "can they uncouple emotional
      reaction from their actual behavior?"

      Using computational and neuroimaging techniques,
      Montague studies the neurobiology of human social
      cognition and decision-making. He and his
      students recruited 26 Buddhist meditators and
      40 control subjects for comparison and looked
      at their brain processes using functional MRI
      (fMRI) while the subjects played the "ultimatum game,"
      in which the first player propose how to divide a
      sum of money and the second can accept or reject the proposal.

      The researchers hypothesized that "successful
      regulation of negative emotional reactions would
      lead to increased acceptance rates of unfair offers"
      by the meditators. The behavioral results confirmed
      the hypothesis.

      But the neuroimaging results showed that Buddhist
      meditators engaged different parts of the brain
      than expected. Kirk, Downar, and Montague explained
      that "The anterior insula has previously been
      linked to the emotion of disgust, and plays a
      key role in marking social norm violations, rejection,
      betrayal, and mistrust. In previous studies of
      the ultimatum game, anterior insula activity was
      higher for unfair offers, and the strength of its
      activity predicted the likelihood of an offer being
      rejected. In the present study, this was true
      for controls. However, in meditators, the anterior
      insula showed no significant activation for unfair
      offers, and there was no significant relationship
      between anterior insula activity and offer rejection.
      Hence, meditators were able to uncouple the
      negative emotional response to an unfair offer,
      presumably by attending to internal bodily states (
      interoception) reflected by activity in the
      posterior insula."

      The researchers conclude, "Our results suggest
      that the lower-level interoceptive representation
      of the posterior insula is recruited based on
      individual trait levels in mindfulness. When
      assessing unfair offers, meditators seem to
      activate an almost entirely different network of
      brain areas than do normal controls. Controls draw
      upon areas involved in theory of mind, prospection,
      episodic memory, and fictive error. In contrast,
      meditators instead draw upon areas involved in
      interoception and attention to the present moment.
      ...This study suggests that the trick may lie not
      in rational calculation, but in steering away from
      what-if scenarios, and concentrating on the
      interoceptive qualities that accompany any
      reward, no matter how small."

      Sources: Virginia Tech, AlphaGalileo Foundation.

      Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/223028.php

      This article is being posted for non-commercial
      purposes only and thus can be shared relative to the
      Fair Use Statutes

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