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Pagnoni, G. and M. Cekic (2007). “Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation.” Neurobiology of Aging 28(10): 1623-1627.

            Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA ) (journal abstract)

Pruett, J. M., N. J. Nishimura and R. Priest (2007). “The role of meditation in addiction recovery.” Counseling and Values 52(1): 71-84.

            The authors examined the role of meditation as an important component in addiction recovery. Successful addiction recovery is often related to an individual’s ability to develop and use a repertoire of coping behaviors, including the ability to maintain an ongoing awareness of one’s vulnerability. These learned behaviors serve as reliable alternatives to the routine behavior patterns of individuals who are addicted, which, in the past, have led to often-repeated destructive outcomes. The authors contend that incorporating meditation into the lifestyle of individuals recovering from addiction provides a consistent means of preparing for inevitable, addiction-related life challenges and a coping skill that can help maintain equilibrium in living with ever-present peril. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA ) (journal abstract)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2009) — Living with pain is stressful, but a surprisingly short investment of time in mental training can help you cope. A new study examining the perception of pain and the effects of various mental training techniques has found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training can have a significant positive effect on pain management.

Though pain research during the past decade has shown that extensive meditation training can have a positive effect in reducing a person’s awareness and sensitivity to pain, the effort, time commitment, and financial obligations required has made the treatment not practical for many patients. Now, a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shows that a single hour of training spread out over a three day period can produce the same kind of analgesic effect. The research appears in an article by UNC Charlotte psychologists Fadel Zeidan, Nakia S. Gordon, Junaid Merchant and Paula Goolkasian, in the current issue of The Journal of Pain. “This study is the first study to demonstrate the efficacy of such a brief intervention on the perception of pain,” noted Fadel Zeidan, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UNC Charlotte and the paper’s lead author. “Not only did the meditation subjects feel less pain than the control group while meditating but they also experienced less pain sensitivity while not meditating.”

… The finding follows earlier research studies that found differences in pain awareness and other mental activities among long-time practitioners of mindfulness meditation techniques. “We knew already that meditation has significant effects on pain perception in long-term practitioners whose brains seem to have been completely changed — we didn’t know that you could do this in just three days, with just 20 minutes a day,” Zeidan said.

Zeidan stresses that the effect the researchers measured in the meditation subjects was a lessening of pain but not a lessening of sensation. …. “What’s neat here is that this is the briefest known way to promote a meditation state and yet it has an effect in pain management. People who want to make use of the technique might not need a meditation facilitator — they might be able to get the necessary training off the internet, ” Zeidan said. “All you have to do is use your mind, change the way you look at the perception of pain and that, ultimately, might help alleviate the feeling of that pain.”

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