Re: [Meditation Society of America] Mindfulness Meditation Changes Decision-making Process
- Thank you very much for this article.
CarolineOn Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 10:31 AM, medit8ionsociety <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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
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
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
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