Meditation and neuroscience :: 2003 report suggests that meditation improves positive emotions and the immune system by activating the left side of the brain

So…onwards with my incremental learnings about consciousness and meditation. I’m hoping to not limit my explorations to just “hard science”, but also exploring more of the frontier. So some of these articles will be old, but I think totally cool. So I wanted to provide a rapid review of an 03 article from Richard Davidson and colleagues. (Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation / Davidson et al / Psychosomatic Medicine 65:564–570 (2003))

Their main argument:
Meditation improves positive emotions and the immune system by activating the left side of the brain.

Supporting arguments:
1. Meditation subjects demonstrated much higher left-sided brain activity, both following first meditation, positive- and negative-emotion-inducing exercises, and 4 months of daily meditation and instruction (most findings were statistically significant).

2. Treatment volunteers also demonstrated an average 26% higher level of antibodies in their bloodstream, several weeks after both control and treatment groups were given flu vaccinations.

What they did:
– About 50 volunteers were split into control and meditation ( or “treatment”) groups. The meditation group received 8 weeks of meditation instruction. Brain activity (on the EEG) and antibody levels were measured right before and after initial meditation, and then after 4 months of daily practice and teachings of meditation. (as a nice benefit, the control group also got to receive the meditation training, after the study was over ;) ).
– The study was apparently first-of-its kind to measure both brain activity and in vivo human immune function as a result of daily meditation

Limitations of the study:
– Unclear where exactly on the left side, the increased brain activity was occurring (largely due to the imprecision of EEG)

– Small sample size, volunteers perhaps not fully “immersed” in the new meditation routines

Off the top of my head what I’d love to explore next:
– Follow-on studies with more precise neuroimaging?
– Larger sample sizes?
– How does the type of meditation used, “mindfulness-based stress reduction“, compare to other types of meditation?
– What is the clinical view towards meditation, as more clinically relevant studies like these have been published?
– What other positive effects of meditation have been scientifically demonstrated?

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One comment

  1. […] Andrew placed an observative post today on Meditation and neuroscience :: 2003 report suggests that …Here’s a quick excerptSo…onwards with my incremental learnings about consciousness and meditation. I’m hoping to not limit my explorations to just “hard science”, but also exploring more of the frontier. So some of these articles will be old, … […]

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