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PSYC 260 (11)
Julia Kam (11)
Lecture 12

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PSYC 260
Julia Kam

Meditation and Mindfulness • Mindfulness is paying attention to what’s currently happening, whether it is something in the external world or something internally • Mindfulness research helps to know more about cognitive enhancement and clinical treatments o Helps sustain attention o Helps to select what to pay attention to more efficiently o Helps working memory and long-term memory o Helps improve self-regulating processes, such as inhibition o Effective form of treatment for depression, anxiety, chronic pain, eating disorders, and ADHD • How is mindfulness studied? o Subject populations  Two kinds of mediation (most use both, starting with focused attention and slowly expanding to opening monitoring) • Focused attention: voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object • Open monitoring: non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience (e.g. thoughts and sensations) from moment to moment • People trained in open monitoring are quicker in responding to unexpected stimuli  Compare expert meditators to novice/non-meditators  Effect of mindfulness of healthy people compared to the effect on people with clinical disorders o Mindfulness manipulations  Instruct people during the experiment to watch their breath, etc.  Having subjects go through training program o Experimental tasks  Compare mindfulness to other control tasks o Brain change measures  fMRI or PET that looks at blood flow  Look at morphological features (e.g. cortical thickness, grey matter mass)  EEG measures that look at neural networks (IMPORTANT compared to studies that look at individual brain structures) • What is mindfulness? o Sustained and receptive awareness of somatosensory and cognitive events o Eastern contemplative practices  “Constant and bare presence of mind” o Western clinical treatments  “Moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness”  Judgments and evaluations are not allowed to control your thoughts (which is what happens to people who ruminate in depressed thoughts) o Not necessarily about the presence, but can also focus on the past or future, as long as you know what you are thinking about • Cognitive processes o Sustained attention  Increases attention orienting and maintenance • Tested using attention network task (efficiency of the alerting network is examined by changes in reaction time resulting from a warning signal, efficiency of orienting is examined by changes in the reaction time that accompany cues indicating where the target will occur, and the efficiency of the executive network is examined by requiring the participant to respond by pressing two keys indicating the left/right direction of a central arrow surrounded by congruent, incongruent, or neutral flankers)  Decreases conflict interference • Tested using stroop task o Receptive attention
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