Buddhist Brains: Understanding cognition’s affect on physiology

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Read the article below summarizing the work of Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin (GO BADGERS!!!!!)

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http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/dalai-lama-neuroscience-compassion/397706/

You can see a published summary of Davidson’s studies here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/

After reading the above, consider the following: 

  1. How does Davidson’s statement, “The best way to activate positive emotion circuits in the brain is through generosity” relate to the research discussed by Kelly McGonigal in her Ted Talk on Stress? 
  2. What is the cognitive change that Davidson investigates? 
  3. What is the physiological change that results from the the aforementioned cognitive change? 
  4. What are some possible implications for his findings? 

Examine One Interaction b/t cognition and Physiology

In order to address this learning outcome, we’ll look at studies by Richard Davidson of the AMAZING UW-Madison.  This one from 2004 in which he analyzed the brain waves of monks versus non meditating indivuduals and found that Monks produced more gamma waves which contribute to increasing grey matter in the brain:

http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/hopes_test/meditation-and-hd/

Years ago, he even famously scanned the brain of the Dalai Llama. You can read the ways in which the Dalai Llama’s brain are different here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/

Additional research by Davidson and colleagues is found below…this very recent study (2013) found that 8 weeks of mindfulness practice reduced the body’s stress response significantly:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518553/

Additionally, Davidson conducted research with others that found gene expression altered as a result of mindfulness: 

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-12-meditation-gene.html

2 Effects of the Environment on Physiological Processes

The first study you’ll need to know is Sapolsky’s work with baboons and the physiological effects environmental stressors have on the release of cortisol (see linked post):  https://awakenedlearning.com/2015/10/06/baboon-bullies-stress-and-physiology/


**The other study you’ll want to know in order to address this learning outcome completely is Rosenweig and Bennet’s study from 1972 involving Rats and environment**  In this study they placed rats in either a stimulating environment or non stimulating environment for 30 or 60 days. They were then killed, and lesioned. Researchers found that the rats who spent time in the stimulating environments had increased thickness in the cerebral cortex area of the brain**