- How can I share with those around me, in ways that make life better for all of us?
I wish you joy beyond what you can imagine, and the realization of your fondest dreams, for 2010 and out into the future.
"The work... also suggests that even though most of our reactions are fast and automatic, we still have free will and control.
"Many of the studies presented here concerned the way we divide people by in-group and out-group categories in as little as 170 milliseconds. The anterior cingulate cortices in American and Chinese brains activate when people see members of their own group endure pain, but they do so at much lower levels when they see members of another group enduring it. These effects may form the basis of prejudice."But a study by Saaid A. Mendoza and David M. Amodio of New York University showed that if you give people a strategy, such as reminding them to be racially fair, it is possible to counteract those perceptions."
From the Boston Globe:
"Minsky called his idea the “Financial Instability Hypothesis.” In the wake of a depression, he noted, financial institutions are extraordinarily conservative, as are businesses. With the borrowers and the lenders who fuel the economy all steering clear of high-risk deals, things go smoothly: loans are almost always paid on time, businesses generally succeed, and everyone does well. That success, however, inevitably encourages borrowers and lenders to take on more risk in the reasonable hope of making more money. As Minsky observed, “Success breeds a disregard of the possibility of failure.”
As people forget that failure is a possibility, a “euphoric economy” eventually develops, fueled by the rise of far riskier borrowers - what he called speculative borrowers, those whose income would cover interest payments but not the principal; and those he called “Ponzi borrowers,” those whose income could cover neither, and could only pay their bills by borrowing still further. As these latter categories grew, the overall economy would shift from a conservative but profitable environment to a much more freewheeling system dominated by players whose survival depended not on sound business plans, but on borrowed money and freely available credit.
Drum roll, please! And the answer is
They used an fMRI scan (functional magnetic resonance imaging) during what is called an affect labeling task. So they had people do this task where they have to label someone's emotional expression (e.g. fearful or surprised). There are certain parts of the brain that are known to be involved in doing that task, particularly the prefrontal cortex modulating the emotional center which is the amygdala. When they did this study they found that the more mindful people were, the more activity in the frontal cortex quieting down the emotional center.
In other studies, mindfulness is shown to change brain activity and even structure with practice. For example, Sara Lazar's research found that the structure of parts of the brain differed in long-time meditators compared to non-meditators. There are now many studies supporting brain changes with various sorts of meditation, including mindfulness meditation.
PF: Are you speaking about neuroplasticity?
SS: Yes, the capacity of the brain to change as a function of experience. And as a geneticist, I'm really interested in epigenetic phenomenon, that is, the capacity of our genes to change in their expression as a function of experience. Meditation seems to do that as well! There is one really great study where a set of about 15 genes were shown to differ (in expression) as function of a type of meditation. Those genes are ones involved in the stress response. And I'm sure there will be more studies like that.
What's really cool about that, from my background in genetics, is that it illustrates that a mind state that we can self-induce can regulate gene expression - turn gene expression up or down.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence about mindfulness that I think is sufficient today to say: Try it, it's likely beneficial, harmless, free, and relatively simple.