Meditation is one of the best tools for mental wellness - how is tech helping us on our path to zen?
The Dalai Lama rocked into the 35th Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in 2005. He blew everyone's mind by talking about Buddha's brain.
Solid Evidence vs. Weak Evidence: Data shows that more evidence appeared in the last years on how mindfulness and medication can support in cognitive, emotional, physical health. Yet as shown there are gaps (an example is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD). Thanks to David McCandless for his data repository.
The Dalai Lama recruited dozens of Tibetan monks to have had their brains scanned by Richard Davidson at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our brain is plastic, the structure changes depending on how we use it. Hours of meditation actually alter the hard wiring structure of the brain.
How? The amplitude and synchrony of high frequency oscillations changed the connectivity among widespread brain circuitry. Expert meditators had a less active amygdala, suggesting a decrease in emotionally reactive behaviours that are incompatible with concentration.
Red region of the brain shows the hippocampus. The hippocampus appears to show heightened activity during meditation by experienced meditators (Images generated by Life Science Databases, source).
"This is the core skill in meditation, focussing your attention."
Brain areas activated by mediation: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (monitoring), visual cortex (engaging attention) and the superior frontal sulcus, the supplementary motor area, and the intraparietal sulcus (attentional orienting)
Novices and die hard meditators with an average of 44,000 hours of practice showed less activation of these areas than moderate meditators. This is a standard learning curve for skill acquisition. The same patterns are seen in someone learning a language. After practice, less energy is needed for sustained attentional focus.
Quantify Me: Muse Headband Takes the Guesswork out of Meditation
Until recently brain scanners were big noisy machines that you had to sit perfectly still in. The Muse headband has changed this. nuviun interviewed neuroscientist Graeme Moffat, one of the creators of Muse.
Muse Headband - Wearable EEG Technology for Monitoring Brain Activity
With users from 20 to 90 Muse is looking at year-to-year changes in the brain. One of the first findings is that there is more excitatory and less inhibitory activity as we age.
Dr. Moffat talked about how real-time tracking could be used to help monitor anxiety, stress and general mental health. Meditation is the best tool for mental wellness and by monitoring mental wellbeing we may be able to track our progress more efficiently.
By controlling your mind, you control your environment.
Headspace is the gym membership of the mind and is leading the way as a MOOC for the mind. With several short daily targets, Headspace demystifies meditation and brings a practical approach to the curious.
The wind is like your mind, and the goal is to calm your mind.
Meditating Marines and More
American Marines deployed to Iraq did eight weeks of mindfulness training and found significant reductions in post traumatic stress disorder. Transport for London did a similar training and found a 70% reduction in sick leave and much better results on job satisfaction.
Starting a business comes at a price, mental health is compromised by the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. Judging from the corporate mindfulness clinical trials tools like Headspace and Muse could give startups a way to nurture mental health through meditation and quantifying the mind.