Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meditation: More on how meditation changes the brain

In "Meditation on Demand: New research reveals how meditation changes the brain," Peter B. Reiner discusses recent efforts to understand meditation via experiments with mice.
It is hard to ignore the fact that the sustained gamma activity evoked in these mice was highly reminiscent of the type of electrical activity recorded from the long-time meditators practicing the elusive phenomenon known as open monitoring meditation. That being said, despite the elegant experimental design utilized by the investigators, sustained gamma-activity is not identical to meditation. For these reasons and more, it is doubtful that anyone would accept this experiment as satisfying the Dalai Lama’s call to the neuroscience community to develop a technological replacement for the many hours spent immersed in contemplative thought. But given the growing body of evidence which suggests that even short-term meditation improves measures of attention, these new experiments provide an interesting twist to the growing field of cognitive enhancement.
Sustained gamma-activity in mice is not identical to meditation?

Obviously, these critics have never heard of mice-stical contemplation!

Reiner wonders whether transhumanists will be tempted to automate mysticism via enhancements.

I doubt that will work because the whole point of effort of any kind is that it is really our effort, our experience, and our achievement. If we can buy an experience off the shelf, we can be pretty sure it isn't really part of our life.

See also:

Spirituality: Michael Gerson on Andrew Newberg's new "How God Changes Your Brain" book

New book watch: Newberg and Waldman's How God Changes Your Brain

Andrew Newberg: Meditation helps, but (how many times do we have to say this?), you must work work at it

Real Buddhism scholar to "neural Buddhists": The Buddha does not infinitely morph and would never drop two grand for "meditation gear"

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