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postgraduate thesis: The neuroplastice effect of meditation

TitleThe neuroplastice effect of meditation
Authors
Issue Date2014
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Leung, M. [梁美琪]. (2014). The neuroplastice effect of meditation. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5185930
AbstractThe human brain is a plastic and malleable organ that can be shaped by daily experience. Experience such as learning modifies the architecture and functioning of the brain. Meditation is an experiential process of cultivation of different mental states in the attention or emotion domains. Whilst the effect of meditation practice on the cultivation of attention has mainly been observed in attentional neural systems, its effects on emotion processing are less well understood. Among the many forms of meditation, loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is one that is loaded on emotion processing because it focuses on cultivating positive emotional qualities, such as compassion and kindness, and at the same time, it works to reduce negative emotions. The neuroplastic effect of LKM is worth investigation because of its potential effect on changing neural activity in brain regions for empathy and theory-of-mind. Furthermore, to provide a complete picture of the effect of LKM on affective processing, it is worth exploring the functional connectivity of regions for emotion processing, for example the amygdala. This thesis reports two studies examining the neuroplastic effect of compassionate meditation. Study One (Chapter 2) examines the impact of long-term LKM practice on gray matter, neural activity and amygdalar functional coupling during emotion processing. The LKM expert meditators, relative to the matched meditation novices, had significantly more gray matter in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri; they also had greater activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during negative emotion processing, and stronger functional coupling between the left amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate, premotor and primary somatosensory cortices during positive emotion processing. Taken into consideration the neural functioning underlying theory-of-mind, executive control, mirror neuron, dorsal and ventral neural systems, LKM expertise may influence brain structures and functioning associated with empathic responses, affective regulation, as well as understanding, sharing, and cultivating positive emotions. To further confirm the direct effect of meditation and the corresponding neuroplastic changes, Study Two (Chapter 3) examined the longitudinal neuroplastic changes induced by a 6-week attention-based compassion meditation (ABCM) program compared with a matched active-control relaxation program. The ABCM training significantly reduced anxiety and enhanced mindfulness compared with relaxation training. Both the right amygdala activity and left amygdala-ventral insula coupling dropped significantly during negative emotion processing after ABCM compared with relaxation trainings. These decreases correlated with more compassion practice and an increase in the perspective-taking score respectively, suggesting ABCM influences neural substrates for empathic responses. Although both trainings induced comparable gray matter increases in the left temporopolar area (TPA), only the TPA enlargement in the ABCM group correlated with an increase in social desirability at the trend-level. Since the TPA is an important paralimbic relay between the limbic and prefrontal cortices for socioemotion processing, ABCM may have unique impacts on socioemotion processing. Taken together, the findings of the studies reported in this thesis add to the literature of neuroplastic changes associated with loving-kindness compassionate meditation. The data carry important implications for the design of intervention programs that incorporate the cultivation of attention-based compassion for alleviating affective dysregulation.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectMeditation
Dept/ProgramPsychology
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/197094

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorLeung, Mei-kei-
dc.contributor.author梁美琪-
dc.date.accessioned2014-05-07T23:15:26Z-
dc.date.available2014-05-07T23:15:26Z-
dc.date.issued2014-
dc.identifier.citationLeung, M. [梁美琪]. (2014). The neuroplastice effect of meditation. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5185930-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/197094-
dc.description.abstractThe human brain is a plastic and malleable organ that can be shaped by daily experience. Experience such as learning modifies the architecture and functioning of the brain. Meditation is an experiential process of cultivation of different mental states in the attention or emotion domains. Whilst the effect of meditation practice on the cultivation of attention has mainly been observed in attentional neural systems, its effects on emotion processing are less well understood. Among the many forms of meditation, loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is one that is loaded on emotion processing because it focuses on cultivating positive emotional qualities, such as compassion and kindness, and at the same time, it works to reduce negative emotions. The neuroplastic effect of LKM is worth investigation because of its potential effect on changing neural activity in brain regions for empathy and theory-of-mind. Furthermore, to provide a complete picture of the effect of LKM on affective processing, it is worth exploring the functional connectivity of regions for emotion processing, for example the amygdala. This thesis reports two studies examining the neuroplastic effect of compassionate meditation. Study One (Chapter 2) examines the impact of long-term LKM practice on gray matter, neural activity and amygdalar functional coupling during emotion processing. The LKM expert meditators, relative to the matched meditation novices, had significantly more gray matter in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri; they also had greater activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during negative emotion processing, and stronger functional coupling between the left amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate, premotor and primary somatosensory cortices during positive emotion processing. Taken into consideration the neural functioning underlying theory-of-mind, executive control, mirror neuron, dorsal and ventral neural systems, LKM expertise may influence brain structures and functioning associated with empathic responses, affective regulation, as well as understanding, sharing, and cultivating positive emotions. To further confirm the direct effect of meditation and the corresponding neuroplastic changes, Study Two (Chapter 3) examined the longitudinal neuroplastic changes induced by a 6-week attention-based compassion meditation (ABCM) program compared with a matched active-control relaxation program. The ABCM training significantly reduced anxiety and enhanced mindfulness compared with relaxation training. Both the right amygdala activity and left amygdala-ventral insula coupling dropped significantly during negative emotion processing after ABCM compared with relaxation trainings. These decreases correlated with more compassion practice and an increase in the perspective-taking score respectively, suggesting ABCM influences neural substrates for empathic responses. Although both trainings induced comparable gray matter increases in the left temporopolar area (TPA), only the TPA enlargement in the ABCM group correlated with an increase in social desirability at the trend-level. Since the TPA is an important paralimbic relay between the limbic and prefrontal cortices for socioemotion processing, ABCM may have unique impacts on socioemotion processing. Taken together, the findings of the studies reported in this thesis add to the literature of neuroplastic changes associated with loving-kindness compassionate meditation. The data carry important implications for the design of intervention programs that incorporate the cultivation of attention-based compassion for alleviating affective dysregulation.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshMeditation-
dc.titleThe neuroplastice effect of meditation-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5185930-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePsychology-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5185930-

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