using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : September 2005
The study of what Davidson calls “the Olympic athletes of meditation,” those who have done from 10,000 to 55,000 hours of practice, is intended to show “what the limits of human plas- ticity are.” When Davidson began his career, he couldn’t get much traction because the brain was treated as a computer by the reigning behaviorist view. The brain is now known to grow and change based on how it is used. So Davidson asks, “What does very intensive training do to the mind? We’ve come to appreciate the value of physical training, but we have not given the same kind of attention to the mind. In our work, we now view happiness and compassion as skills that can be trained. When we look at advanced practitioners, we are stretching how people think about the furthest reaches of human development.” SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 3 9 might do. In the early seventies, he was a Harvard colleague of Daniel Goleman, who would go on to become a champion of the principle of “emotional intelligence” and write a best-seller by that name. In their Harvard days, Davidson and Goleman co- authored a paper that argued that training attention through meditation would create “lasting and beneficial psychobiologi- cal changes.” While a layperson can rely on anecdotes and per- sonal reports to determine whether or not there are “beneficial changes,” a scientist needs hard data. Fortunately, as Davidson’s career progressed, so did the sci- ence on brain function. The Society of Neuroscience, only established in 1970, would go on to become the largest and fastest-growing society in all of experimental biology. By the late eighties, neuroscientists were taking very detailed pictures of brain activity, and by the late nineties they were taking videos. Because of such advances in brain-imaging technology, researchers could now gather hard data about the beneficial effects of medita- tion. Talking about such data was one of the primary focuses of the 2000 Mind and Life conference, coordinat- ed by Goleman, with Davidson, Varela, Paul Ekman, another promi- nent emotion researcher, and others in attendance. The results of that meet- ing, and a follow-up session the next year at Davidson’s lab, are the subject of Goleman’s book, Destructive Emotions. Researchers in Davidson’s lab have been able to chart brain activity in meditators in a way that has never been done before, primarily by using a functional MRI, which videotapes brain function (unlike the standard MRI, which only takes snapshots). They combine this information with data from an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measures electrical activity at the surface of the brain. While the EEG technician at your local hospital might attach several dozen sensors to a patient’s head, in Davidson’s lab they use up to 256. The raw EEG data is enhanced by soft- ware that triangulates from the sensors and reports on activity not only on the surface but deep within the brain. Davidson told me recently that his goal is to “establish through scientific research the validity of methods that have been developed in Buddhism for 2,500 years.” Through objective verification of their benefits, Davidson believes, “these practices could gain wider acceptance both in the mainstream culture and the medical community.” Davidson’s team and his collaborators have done two types of studies, one with people first learning to meditate and says Matthieu Ricard, “that will be of great value to society.” CNRI/SCIENCEPHOTOLIBRARY another with extremely experienced and adept practitioners. In the first kind of study, they are trying to find out what benefits accrue for someone whose meditation is regular but of limited duration. Jon Kabat-Zinn has done extensive research into the health benefits of mindfulness meditation and has long been involved with Mind and Life, so Davidson collaborated with him on a recent study of workers in a high-tech company who took a two-month training program in meditation. It showed significant changes in brain activity, declines in anxiety, and beneficial changes in immune function. MRI of human head-section showing the division of the brain into left and right cerebral hemispheres.