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SerinaChavez

Period4
March3,2015
MeditationintheMind

ResearchQuestion:
Whatareasofthebrainareactive/inactivewhenoneclearstheirmindoverthecourseof
Enlightenment(SahajaYoga)meditation?

Background:
Thoughmeditationhasrootsinthecontemplativepracticesofalmosteveryreligion,itis
commonlyassociatedwithandpracticedwithinthemanybranchesofBuddhism.Most
recognizedasaBuddhistpracticeisSahajaYogameditation.AlsoknownasEnlightenment
meditation,SahajaYogaisthepracticeoffindingmindfulness,awareness,peace,and
compassionthroughthoroughrelaxationandfocusofthemindandbody.Traditionally,the
relaxingsensationsofthebreathandconnectionstosurroundingsareusedforfocuswhile
clearingthemind.Inprinciple,duringSahajaYogameditation,onesitswiththeireyesclosed
andgraduallyshiftstheirawarenesstotheirsoul,mind,andbodybyreflectingonactionsand
surroundings.Noworkoutgearisrequiredbut,forthebestexperience,amplepracticeat
silencingthemindisdesirablebutnotnecessary.AccordingtotheCenterforInvestigating
HealthyMinds,meditationcaninducedramaticandbeneficialpsychologicalandphysical
changesinthebrain,suchasincreasedtissueintheprefrontalcortexandinsulaofthebrainand

lesspronenesstostress(Ricard,Lutz,&Davidson,2014).Bothofthesearelookedatas
extremelybeneficialtoonesmentalhealth.Presently,meditationisbecomingincreasingly
commonintheeverydaylivesofhumansaroundtheworldandintheU.S.Recently,meditation
hasevenbeenencouragedbymentalinstitutesandhospitalsasitisknowntohaveimmense
healingpowersonthemindandbody.

Hypothesis:
Ihypothesizethat,therewillbeanatfirstincreasedactivityintheneuronsinthefrontal
lobeandsensorycortexofthebrain,causingtheretobemorebloodflow.However,asthe
meditationprogresses,theactivityandbloodflowwilldecreasedrastically.
Overthecourseofmeditation,onegainscontrolofthemind,becomesawareofemotions
andsensations,thenproceedstorelaxthemindandclearitofthoughts.Ibelievethat,whilea
personisgainingcontrolofthemindinthebeginningstagesofthemeditation,therewillbean
increaseinfocusedactivityinthefrontalcortex(wherebehaviorcontrolandthoughtsare
centered).Asthepersonbecomesawareofemotionsandsensations(alsointhebeginningofthe
meditation),thesensorycortexwillactivateandincreaseactivity.Finally,asthoughtsand
sensationsareletgoandthepersonachievesadeeperenlightenmentorrelaxedstate,activityin
themindwilldecreasedramatically.

ModelOrganism:
Humans(
HomoSapiens
)
Inordertogainthemostadvancedunderstandingofmeditationpracticeinthehuman
mind,wewillbeusinghumanstotestourhypothesisastheyarethespeciesmostpracticedwith

meditation.Inaddition,humanmindsaremostdevelopedincomparisontoothermammalian
species,makingthemmoredesirableforthisexperimentduetothecomplexityofthebrain.
Manymayarguethatusinghumansastestsubjectsisdangerousorcanbedetrimentaltothe
subjectshealth.Inthecaseofthisexperiment,though,thatisuntrue.ThefMRIscanswewillbe
usinghavebeenusedtoimagehumanmindsformanyyearswithnosymptomsofharmtoany
subjects.
Wewillbeaskingfor30volunteers,bothmaleandfemale.Twentyofthemwhoare
meditationpractitionersanddomeditationdailyastheycanperformthemeditativetasks
necessaryforourexperimentwithmostaccuracyandefficiency.Tenofthemfromregular,
everydaybackgroundswithnospecificmeditationexperiencebefore.Preferably,theywillallbe
fromadiverserangeoflocationsandnotberestrictedbyanyfactorssuchasmentalorphysical
illnessasitmayaffecttheresultsoftheexperiment.

ExperimentalTechnique:
Overthecourseofthisstudy,wewillusefunctionalmagneticresonanceimaging(fMRI)
tomeasurebrainactivityduringthefollowingtwostatesofmind:(1)Duringaregular,relaxed
stateand(2)duringthecourseofEnlightenment(SahajaYoga)meditation.Thismethodwillnot
harmordisturbthemindsofour30subjectsinanyway.Wewillbeginbyimagingtheregular
relaxedstateinthemindsofour30volunteers.Then,wewillaskallofthemtobegintheir
meditationaswetakeimagesoftheoxygenatedbloodflowinthebrainwhilefocusingonthe
frontallobeandsensorycortex.Duringthemeditation,wewilldoourbesttocreatean
environmentdesirabletomeditatein.Thismayinclude/excludecertainsounds,lightexposure,

orroomtemperature.Whenthemeditationiscompletedandtheimagesretrieved,our
researcherswillcompareandcontrasttheactivityinthenoexperiencebrainsduringtherelaxed
state(whichwillbethecontrol)withthoseofthepractitionersbrainsduringrelaxedstateand
thencomparethemwiththetwotypesofmeditativestate.
Functionalmagneticresonanceimaging(fMRI)isanidealmethodforthisstudyasitcan
mostaccuratelyimageactivityinspecificareasofthebrainwiththeleastamountofdisturbance
tothesubjectsminds.Asneuronsbecomeactivated,theyrequireanincreasedamountof
oxygenatedblood,causingtheretobeanincreaseinflowtothespecificareawheretheneurons
are.TheoxygeninthebloodstreamisthendetectedbythemagnetizedbeamsofthefMRI
scannerandrecordedbythephotoprocessorsinthemachine.Researcherscanthenobservethe
activityintheregionsofthebrainbylookingatandcomparingtheimages.Inourstudy,wewill
belookingforanincreaseinbloodflowinthefrontalcortexandsensorycortex.

EthicalandSocietalImplications
Forthousandsofyears,meditationhasbeenareligious,spiritual,andeverydaypractice
forpeoplearoundtheworld.Recently,ithasbecomemorewidespreadanditsuseinoursociety
hasincreased.Thecurrentandpotentialimpactthispracticehasonourcommunityincreasesthe
needtounderstanditonadeeperandneurologicallevel.Unfortunately,thereisalotaboutthe
brainsfunctioningsthatareleftunknowntoscientists.Thisstudywillhelpclarifyneural
activitywhenrecoveringfromstressorstressfulsituationsduringaverycommonformof
meditation.Theinformationgainedfromthisexperimentwillhelpscientistsanddoctors
prescribeenlightenmentmeditationtopatientsbasedontheirdisordersaswewillbetter

understandtheareasofthebrainitcanenhance.Manymayarguethatthepositiveeffectsof
meditationononesfeelingsandactionsarenotguaranteed.Insomeways,thisistrue,but
studieshavefoundthatthebrainisphysicallyaffectedbymindfulnessinawaythatopposesthe
effectsofstress,anger,annoyance,ormanyothernegativeimplications.Insummary,the
practiceofmeditationhasextremepotentialtobenefitsocietybutwecannottakeadvantageofit
infulluntilweunderstanditseffects.Thisexperimentwillhelpclarifytheseeffects.

Resources:
1. Bodhipaksa.(n.d.).AboutBuddhistMeditation.RetrievedMarch5,2015,from
http://www.wildmind.org/background/buddhistmeditation
2. Hasenkamp,W.,WilsonMendenhall,C.D.,Duncan,E.,&Barsalou,L.W.(2012).Mind
wanderingandattentionduringfocusedmeditation:afinegrainedtemporalanalysisof
fluctuatingcognitivestates.
Neuroimage
,
59
(1),750760.RetrievedMarch9,2015,from
http://psychology.emory.edu/cognition/barsalou/papers/Hasenkamp_et_alNeuroImage_2
012meditation_time_course.pdf
3. Ricard,M.,Lutz,A.,&Davidson,R.(2014).MindoftheMeditator.RetrievedMarch5,
2015,from
http://www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/ScientificPublications/2014/RicardMindSciA
m.pdf
4. Rubia,K.,GonzalezMora,J.,Hernandez,S.,&Suero,J.(2015).MonitoringtheNeural
ActivityoftheStateofMentalSilenceWhilePracticingSahajaYogaMeditation.
JournalofAlternativeandComplementaryMedicine
.RetrievedFebruary16,2015,from
PubMed.(
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25671603
)
5. Shin,D.(n.d.).WhatisfMRI?RetrievedMarch5,2015,from
http://fmri.ucsd.edu/Research/whatisfmri.html