Saturday, September 6, 2008

Zen Rules!

This study from Plos One found that Zen meditation practice improved concentration and the ability to ignore distracting stimuli. There are now a number of studies on various types of meditation practice and the results are intriguing. Some of the benefits appear to be:

  • adjunct treatment for ADD
  • adjunct treatment for depression
  • may improve the immune response.
  • may improve the stress response regulation
  • Reduces anxiety.
  • it makes you seem spiritual to others.

“Thinking about Not-Thinking”: Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing during Zen Meditation


Recent neuroimaging studies have identified a set of brain regions that are metabolically active during wakeful rest and consistently deactivate in a variety the performance of demanding tasks. This “default network” has been functionally linked to the stream of thoughts occurring automatically in the absence of goal-directed activity and which constitutes an aspect of mental behavior specifically addressed by many meditative practices. Zen meditation, in particular, is traditionally associated with a mental state of full awareness but reduced conceptual content, to be attained via a disciplined regulation of attention and bodily posture. Using fMRI and a simplified meditative condition interspersed with a lexical decision task, we investigated the neural correlates of conceptual processing during meditation in regular Zen practitioners and matched control subjects. While behavioral performance did not differ between groups, Zen practitioners displayed a reduced duration of the neural response linked to conceptual processing in regions of the default network, suggesting that meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation.

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