Breaking News
June 24, 2018 - Enlist a Pharmacist to Help Manage High Blood Pressure
June 24, 2018 - Genes found related to the reduction of proteins that contribute to Alzheimer’s onset
June 24, 2018 - 1 in 5 immigrant children detained during ‘zero tolerance’ border policy are under 13
June 24, 2018 - Personal automated cell lab assistant from Leica saves time with quality results
June 24, 2018 - Drug use can have social benefits, and acknowledging this could improve rehabilitation
June 24, 2018 - AMSBIO introduces MyEZGel 3D-iPSC Matrix for more accurate in vivo predictions
June 24, 2018 - RaySearch releases new RayStation 8A to expand support for TomoTherapy platform
June 24, 2018 - Dying cancer cells make remaining glioblastoma cells more aggressive and therapy-resistant
June 24, 2018 - Researchers discover new type of cell that hinders formation of fat cells
June 24, 2018 - Scientists develop unique program to predict a form of Parkinson’s disease
June 24, 2018 - Adult Obesity Prevalence Varies With Level of Urbanization
June 24, 2018 - Picking an exercise boot camp
June 24, 2018 - Researchers outline a connection between subplate neurons and brain disorders
June 24, 2018 - Four cups of coffee a day shown to protect heart muscle
June 24, 2018 - ‘Antifreeze’ molecules may hold key to better treatments for brain injuries
June 24, 2018 - Opening onsite health clinics for workers can cut health care costs
June 24, 2018 - Glooko to demonstrate new version of diabetes management mobile application at ADA meeting
June 24, 2018 - Florida Teen First Human Case of Another Mosquito-Borne Virus
June 24, 2018 - Blood type O patients may have higher risk of death from severe trauma
June 24, 2018 - New studies on molecular and cellular proteomics
June 24, 2018 - Algorithm predicts dangerous low blood pressure during surgery
June 24, 2018 - Herpes may play role in pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s
June 24, 2018 - Inaccurate measurement of sodium intake may account for paradoxical results, study suggests
June 24, 2018 - Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals wins NINDS grant to advance novel therapies for ALS
June 24, 2018 - Study upends conventional view of opioid mechanism of action
June 24, 2018 - Floppy eyelids may be sign of sleep apnea, study finds
June 23, 2018 - Researchers highlight new nurse training model to address shortage of primary care
June 23, 2018 - New Olympus cellSens 2.1 speeds up image analysis
June 23, 2018 - Attitudes Among Obese Are Not Aligned With Healthy Living
June 23, 2018 - Early birds less prone to depression
June 23, 2018 - Scientists use novel approach to uncover how brain networks interact to make word-choice decisions
June 23, 2018 - Researchers discover shared genetic basis for psychiatric disorders
June 23, 2018 - Study shows fat cells increase in size and number upon exposure to fracking chemicals
June 23, 2018 - Water-limited landscapes can facilitate disease transmission
June 23, 2018 - Exercise May Ease Inflammation Tied to Obesity
June 23, 2018 - Is it their own fault?! How people judge the exclusion of others
June 23, 2018 - Researchers use advanced technology to identify proteomes of Th17 and iTreg cells
June 23, 2018 - Researchers develop low-cost plastic sensors to monitor wide range of health conditions
June 23, 2018 - Lipid-scrambling DNA enzyme outperforms naturally occurring counterpart, say researchers
June 23, 2018 - Apps for children should emphasize parent and child choice, researchers say
June 23, 2018 - Teenage girls report higher degree of daytime sleepiness than boys
June 23, 2018 - Protein Data Bank at Rutgers impacts research, education and drug discovery
June 23, 2018 - Study unravels new piece of information in the Huntington’s disease puzzle
June 23, 2018 - Scientists develop new device to test cancer drug combinations quickly and cheaply
June 23, 2018 - Neural Analytics wins CE Mark for NeuralBot System
June 23, 2018 - Infant omega-3 supplementation tied to decreased waist size
June 23, 2018 - Massive analysis of genomes reveals insights into genetic overlap among psychiatric diseases
June 23, 2018 - New therapeutic approach may delay neurodegeneration in rare genetic disease
June 23, 2018 - Broken shuttle protein may hinder learning in patients with brain disorders
June 23, 2018 - Study finds increase in daily cannabis use among American adults
June 23, 2018 - Researchers create electronic skin that brings back real sense of touch to prosthetic limbs
June 23, 2018 - FIRS: Guidance Offered for Protecting Youth From E-Cigarettes
June 23, 2018 - Scientists unravel molecular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease
June 23, 2018 - When the Heart Stops, Drugs Often to Blame
June 23, 2018 - Scientists show that a key Parkinson’s biomarker can be identified in the retina
June 23, 2018 - Study finds factors underlying current rise in radicalization among European youth
June 23, 2018 - New study finds higher heart disease risk in bisexual men
June 23, 2018 - Coconut oil diet increases vitality, lifespan of fruit flies with peroxisomal disorder
June 23, 2018 - Jumping genes or transposons and their role in the genetic code
June 23, 2018 - The Current issue of “The view from here” is concerned with Therapeutics
June 23, 2018 - Abnormal lipid metabolism in fat cells predicts future weight gain and diabetes in women
June 23, 2018 - Alcohol problems linked to sex without condom use among black gay men
June 23, 2018 - DNA patterns in circulating blood cells can help identify spastic cerebral palsy
June 23, 2018 - Unsubstantiated health claims widespread within weight loss industry
June 23, 2018 - FDA grants marketing authorization for use of two catheter-based devices in hemodialysis patients
June 23, 2018 - An ingrown toenail not the same as a bypass
June 23, 2018 - Study suggests proteinuria lowering as important target in managing pediatric CKD
June 23, 2018 - Dynamic model helps make predictions about gut microbiome
June 23, 2018 - Research consortium wins £2.9 million to help tackle antibacterial resistance in Thailand
June 23, 2018 - Schizophrenia patients account for over 1 in 10 suicide deaths, study shows
June 23, 2018 - Overdose risk increases five-fold with concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine use
June 23, 2018 - FDA Alert: Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) powder products by Gaia Ethnobotanical: Recall
June 23, 2018 - Study highlights inadequate effort of health care insurers to combat opioid epidemic
June 23, 2018 - CDC chief asks for, and gets, cut to his record $375K pay
June 22, 2018 - Novel cellular pathway may clarify how arterial inflammation develops into atherosclerosis
June 22, 2018 - Pioneering exercise program improves physical, mental health of elderly people living in care homes
June 22, 2018 - Rutgers Cancer Institute educates childhood cancer survivors about late effects of treatment
June 22, 2018 - Study tests accuracy of device designed to detect heart dysfunction in childhood cancer survivors
June 22, 2018 - Study links annual haze with increased hospitalizations for respiratory problems
June 22, 2018 - Robotic surgery appears to be as effective as open surgery in treating bladder cancer
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