Breaking News
September 26, 2018 - Blood-brain barrier can be important biomarker for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
September 26, 2018 - Scientists discover and characterize human skeletal stem cells
September 26, 2018 - Repeat CT Common in Peds Traumatic Epidural Hematoma
September 26, 2018 - Genetics Home Reference: bunion
September 26, 2018 - Increase observed in hearts from drug-intoxicated donors
September 26, 2018 - For Heart Failure Patients, Mitral Valve Procedure Improved Outcomes
September 26, 2018 - TINY cancer detection device shows promise as point-of-care detector of KSHV
September 26, 2018 - Women with non-small cell lung cancers live longer than their male counterparts
September 26, 2018 - KTU researchers engineer experimental bone to help treat osteoarthritis patients
September 26, 2018 - Foundation for a Smoke-Free World calls for proposals to implement Smoke-Free Index
September 26, 2018 - Functional Imagery Training helps lose five times more weight than talking therapy
September 26, 2018 - Fewer American Teens Having Sex, Most Using Birth Control
September 26, 2018 - We are predisposed to forgive, new research suggests
September 26, 2018 - Insomnia Exacts Heavy Toll on Quality of Life
September 26, 2018 - Clinical study shows efficacy, safety of novel drug-eluting stent with improved radiographic visibility
September 26, 2018 - Cytox, AIBL announce expanded agreement to assess genetic risk for Alzheimer’s
September 26, 2018 - Study finds persistent rate of lawnmower injury-related emergency department visits
September 26, 2018 - Researchers find molecule that halts, reverts neurodegeneration caused by Parkinson’s disease
September 26, 2018 - Novartis announces winners of 2018 eXcellence in Ophthalmology Vision Award
September 26, 2018 - New spinout company to tackle drug-resistant infections with novel antibiotics
September 26, 2018 - In depression the brain region for stress control is larger
September 26, 2018 - Smuggling RNA into cells can activate the immune system to fight cancer
September 26, 2018 - Special Focus Issue takes wide view of complementary and integrative medicine in cancer
September 26, 2018 - Researchers now confirm that genome duplication drives evolution of species
September 25, 2018 - Study provides evidence of beta lactamase producing, antimicrobial resistant E. coli in U.S. retail meat
September 25, 2018 - UCI study finds new cause of cerebral microbleeds
September 25, 2018 - Researchers propose mechanism by which ASTN2 protein defects lead to brain disorders
September 25, 2018 - Chinese and German researchers to cooperate more closely in future for better food
September 25, 2018 - Recent study helps predict probability of pregnant mothers to have child with autism
September 25, 2018 - New online, sound matching tool offers tinnitus sufferers potential treatment options
September 25, 2018 - UC Davis researchers take critical step in developing more effective Salmonella vaccine
September 25, 2018 - Antibiotics best paediatric treatment for children’s chronic wet cough
September 25, 2018 - Looking beyond opioids: Stanford pain psychologist briefs Congress
September 25, 2018 - Organs actively fighting back against autoimmune diseases, finds study
September 25, 2018 - Lancaster professor aims to understand how genes affect smoking cessation
September 25, 2018 - Human-oriented perspective needed to better understand Parkinson’s disease
September 25, 2018 - Physical activity may have beneficial effects for people with rare Alzheimer’s disease
September 25, 2018 - FDA Updates on Valsartan Recalls
September 25, 2018 - 3-D-printed tracheal splints used in groundbreaking pediatric surgery
September 25, 2018 - Who is the designated driver, or proxy, for your health decisions?
September 25, 2018 - New chemo-optogenetic method enables multi-directional activity control of cellular processes
September 25, 2018 - Study explores link between genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s and cardiometabolic risk factors
September 25, 2018 - NeoTract presents new clinical data from studies of UroLift System for patients with BPH
September 25, 2018 - Patients with paralysis manage to walk thanks to new technology
September 25, 2018 - Statins Improve Long-Term Survival After AAA Repair
September 25, 2018 - Novel brain network linked to chronic pain in Parkinson’s disease
September 25, 2018 - Researchers reassess negative pressure wound therapy as its benefit and harm remain unclear
September 25, 2018 - Older adults with ‘fall plan of care’ less likely to suffer fall-related hospitalizations
September 25, 2018 - FDA lifts partial clinical hold that paused enrollment of new patients in tazemetosta clinical trials
September 25, 2018 - IME Medical Electrospinning establishes state-of-the-art manufacturing lab facilities
September 25, 2018 - Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of entrectinib drug in ROS1-positive NSCLC show promising results
September 25, 2018 - How to Protect Your Eyesight
September 25, 2018 - Novel approach allows researchers to define how cells in the retina respond to diabetes
September 25, 2018 - Columbia University announces winners of 2018 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
September 25, 2018 - New model enables anyone to run powerful simulations, complex calculations easily
September 25, 2018 - Clinical trial investigators found non-compliant with requirement to report results on EU register
September 25, 2018 - Study analyzes quality of protein supplements in function of source, treatment and storage
September 25, 2018 - FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to Myelo001 for treatment of Acute Radiation Syndrome
September 25, 2018 - U.S. Alzheimer’s Cases to Nearly Triple by 2060
September 25, 2018 - Improving cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease
September 25, 2018 - Genervon reports new findings that drug candidate GM6 attenuates Alzheimer’s disease in mice model
September 25, 2018 - FDA approves new 5 mm diameter drug-eluting stent from Cook Medical
September 25, 2018 - New $17.8 million grant ensures USC at forefront of research on tobacco-related health risks
September 25, 2018 - Researchers analyze response to combination immunotherapy for patients with rare skin cancer
September 25, 2018 - Study sheds light on how brain protein may be involved neurodevelopmental disorders
September 25, 2018 - Where to draw the line on incentives
September 25, 2018 - Solid fuel use linked with increased risk of hospitalization or death from respiratory diseases
September 25, 2018 - ‘Trouble Brewing’ report highlights steps that governments can take to reduce alcohol-related harms
September 25, 2018 - Recurrence risk of VTE appears similar for patients with cancer and those with unprovoked VTE
September 25, 2018 - Global leaders must make bold commitments at first-ever UN tuberculosis summit
September 25, 2018 - Brief sleep intervention works long-term to prevent child obesity
September 25, 2018 - Vaping among kids and teens a growing concern
September 25, 2018 - Public launch of products and application solutions from Porvair Laboratory Division
September 25, 2018 - Harmful H. pylori may play a role in Parkinson’s disease
September 25, 2018 - Researchers develop way to measure different types of fear of falling in patients with Parkinson’s
September 25, 2018 - Fracture causes bone density losses throughout the body
September 25, 2018 - Researchers highlight potential therapy for treating rare, deadly blood-clotting disorder
September 25, 2018 - Hybrid theranostic complex shows high therapeutic efficacy against tumor cells
September 25, 2018 - FDA Issues Statement Reaffirming the Positive Benefit-Risk Profile of Nuplazid (pimavanserin) for Patients with Hallucinations and Delusions Associated with Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis
September 25, 2018 - Toxicological evaluation and dosimetry estimation of potential PET radiotracer
Compassion meditation training may increase brain’s resilience to suffering of other people

Compassion meditation training may increase brain’s resilience to suffering of other people

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

It can be distressing to witness the pain of family, friends or even strangers going through a hard time. But what if, just like strengthening a muscle or learning a new hobby, we could train ourselves to be more compassionate and calm in the face of others’ suffering?

That is the question behind research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a new study suggests that as little as two weeks of compassion meditation training — intentionally cultivating positive wishes to understand and relieve the suffering of others — may reduce the distress a person feels when witnessing another’s suffering. It may also improve their ability and likelihood to respond with compassion.

The findings, published May 22 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, may have implications for professions in which people routinely work with others who are suffering, like doctors, law enforcement officers and first responders who experience high levels of distress or empathic burnout.

“Compassion meditation may shift habits of becoming overly distressed when we encounter another’s pain,” says Helen Weng, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She led the research while a graduate student at the Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. “People can learn a calmer and more balanced response when they see someone suffering, even when they are attending more to suffering.”

For the study, 24 participants were randomly assigned and trained to do either 30 minutes of compassion meditation or reappraisal training (re-interpreting personally stressful events to decrease negative emotions) every day for two weeks.

The compassion meditation group was trained to visualize people when they were suffering and practice noticing their own personal reactions in a calm and nonjudgmental way. Focusing on a loved one, on themselves, on a stranger, and on someone with whom they had conflict, they also practiced caring for and wishing to help the other person.

In this way, practicing compassion meditation was like exercising a muscle by gradually increasing the “weight” of the relationship with each person considered.

Both groups received brain scans before they were trained and after two weeks of practice to see whether compassion meditation made it easier for those trained to actually look at a suffering person. Humans are visually attentive as a species, Weng says, and looking at someone is a critical first step in determining if they’re in need.

“Your eyes are a window into what you care about,” she says. “We wanted to know: Does looking more at suffering in the mind’s eye translate into looking more at suffering out in the real world, and can this be done with less distress?”

While in the brain scanner, before and after two weeks of practice, the participants viewed neutral images of strangers as well as emotionally evocative images of people suffering — like a burn victim or crying child. They were instructed to react to the images as they normally would and to make use of their new training.

For instance, people in the compassion training group practiced compassion toward individuals in the images, having thoughts like: “May this person be happy and free from suffering.” The reappraisal group reframed the situation: “This person is an actor and isn’t really suffering.”

The researchers used eye-tracking techniques to record where people spent the most time gazing at each image, whether it was on areas of the image that were more negative — such as the faces of those in suffering — or on less emotionally charged parts of the image. They also compared this to how much time each participant looked at the socially relevant areas of neutral images, like the face of a person walking down the street.

The research team found that the people who had practiced compassion meditation tended to look more directly at suffering in the negative images relative to the neutral photos. They also showed less activity in the amygdala, insula and orbitofrontal cortex — areas of the brain that are usually more active when experiencing emotional distress and might lead to a withdrawal response and averted gaze.

This finding was not present in the reappraisal group, and the results suggest compassion could be a mechanism through which people may become calmer in the face of suffering.

“We communicate a lot with our eyes, and this research suggests that compassion training has an impact on the body and can actually shift where you direct your visual attention when you see others in pain,” says Weng.

Compassion meditation slows things down so people can practice being more calm, notice the feelings that arise and learn to be less reactive, she adds. “This gives you more mental space to focus on the other person, to practice wishing kindness and wanting them to be well, and I think both parts are really important for effectively responding to people suffering.”

Though the results are exciting, Weng says a larger and more diverse sample of people should be involved in a repeated study. The study was also performed with people who had never meditated before and it’s not yet clear whether scientists would find more pronounced results in people who already had extensive compassion meditation practice.

Compassion meditation could also be used as a strategy for working with people with conditions that affect how comfortable they are making eye contact with others, says Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds and senior author of the study.

“The pattern of these findings — an increase in looking at suffering while simultaneously down-regulating neural circuits associated with negative emotion — is a winning combination that may be beneficial for a wide range of conditions including autism and social anxiety disorder in which gaze aversion and social discomfort are hallmark signs,” he adds.

Source:

Training compassion ‘muscle’ may boost brain’s resilience to others’ suffering

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles