Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain        Tools for Cultivating Happiness, Love and Wisdom                Cassandra Vieten...
Topics! Perspectives! Self-directed  neuroplasticity! Mindfulness! Taking in the good! Compassion           2
Perspectives               3
Common - and Fertile - Ground       Neuroscience        Psychology           Contemplative Practice                       ...
The history of science is rich in the example         of the fruitfulness of bringing   two sets of techniques, two sets o...
Great questioning, great enlightenment; little questioning, little enlightenment;    no questioning, no enlightenment.    ...
We ask, “What is a thought?”        We dont know,yet we are thinking continually.    Venerable Tenzin Palmo               ...
Self-Directed Neuroplasticity                                8
9
A Neuron           10
The Connectome - 2                                                         11      Hagmann, et al., 2008, PLoS Biology, 6:...
All cells have specialized functions. Brain cells have particular   ways of processing information and communicating with ...
The Mind/Brain System! “Mind” = flow of information within the nervous system:   ! Information is represented by the nervo...
Fact #1  As your brain changes, your mind changes.                                              14
Ways That Brain Can Change Mind! For better:   !   Caffeine: more alertness; ibuprofen: less pain   !   SSRIs: more seroto...
Key Brain Areas for Consciousness(adapted from) M. T. Alkire et al., Science 322, 876-880 (2008)   16
Fact #2        As your mind changes, your brain changes.Immaterial mental activity maps to material neural activity.This p...
The Rewards of Love                      18
Tibetan Monk, Boundless Compassion                                 19
Christian Nuns, Recalling aProfound Spiritual Experience                                                         20     Be...
Mind Changes Brain in Lasting Ways! What flows through the mind sculpts your brain.  Immaterial experience leaves material...
Honoring ExperienceOne’s experience matters.Both for how it feels in the moment and for the  lasting residues it leaves be...
Fact #3You can use your mindto change your brainto change your mind for the better.This is self-directed neuroplasticity. ...
The Power of Mindfulness                           24
The Power of Mindfulness! Moment to moment non-judgmental awareness of  experience! Bringing attention to what is typicall...
The Power of Mindfulness! Attention is like a spotlight, illuminating what it rests upon.! Because neuroplasticity is heig...
Functional Change  Davidson, et al. 2003.  Training in mindfulness causes     changes in left-sided anterior     activatio...
Functional Change  Lutz, et al. 2004. Long-term Buddhist practitioners     self-induce sustained electroencephalographic  ...
Functional ChangeAn MRI comparison ofthe averaged brainactivity of advancedmeditators and non-meditators. Comparedto the l...
Structural Change  Meditation can “sculpt the brain” (Jim Austen, 1998)                                                   ...
Structural Change Lazar, et al. 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, ...
Structural Change Holzel, et al. (2011) Mindfulness    practice leads to increases    in regional brain gray matter    den...
Compassion Holzel, et al. (2011) Mindfulness    practice leads to increases    in regional brain gray matter    density. P...
Structural Change                    Toga, et al., (2011) Enhanced                       brain connectivity in long-      ...
The education of attentionwould be the education par excellence.             William James                                ...
Know the mind.Shape the mind.Free the mind.                  36
Taking in the Good                     37
Just having positive experiences is not enough.They pass through the brain like water through a  sieve, while negative exp...
How to Take in the Good1. Look for positive facts, and let them become positive   experiences.2. Savor the positive experi...
Kinds of “Good” to Take in! Things are alright; nothing is wrong; there is no threat! Feeling safe and strong! The peace a...
Why It’s Good to Take in the Good! Rights an unfair imbalance, given the negativity bias! Gives oneself today the caring a...
If one going down into a river,   swollen and swiftly flowing,is carried away by the current --how can one help others acr...
The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life.I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy;     I mean that if ...
Benefits of Positive Emotions! The benefits of positive emotions are a proxy for  many of the benefits of TIG.! Emotions o...
Potential Synergies of TIG and MBSR! Improved mindfulness from MBSR enhances TIG.! TIG increases general resources for MBS...
Compassion             46
Feeling Cared About! As we evolved, we increasingly turned to and relied  on others to feel safer and less threatened.   !...
The root of Buddhism is compassion,and the root of compassion is compassion for oneself.                   Pema Chodren   ...
Self-Compassion! Compassion is the wish that a being not suffer, combined with  sympathetic concern. Self-compassion simpl...
Self-Compassion Exercise based on Kristen Neff’s work                                50
Three Doorways! Give yourself kindness! Remind yourself of your commonality with  others! Hold thoughts and emotions in mi...
Beyond the Brain! Gene expression – epigenetics! Cell death and regeneration – telomeres! Behavioral responses – neuroecon...
Resources! IONS Meditation Bibliography! Rick’s website and book: Buddha’s Brain! Cassi’s books – Living Deeply and Mindfu...
Great BooksSee www.RickHanson.net for other great books.! Austin, J. 2009. Selfless Insight. MIT Press.! Begley. S. 2007. ...
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Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain: Tools for Cultivating Happiness, Love and Wisdom

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Tools for well-being, grounded in cutting-edge science and the wisdom of the world’s contemplative traditions.

More resources, freely offered at http://www.rickhanson.net

Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain: Tools for Cultivating Happiness, Love and Wisdom

  1. 1. Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain Tools for Cultivating Happiness, Love and Wisdom Cassandra Vieten, PhD Director of Research, Institute of Noetic Sciences www.noetic.org Rick Hanson, Ph.D. The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom www.WiseBrain.org www.RickHanson.net drrh@comcast.net 1
  2. 2. Topics! Perspectives! Self-directed neuroplasticity! Mindfulness! Taking in the good! Compassion 2
  3. 3. Perspectives 3
  4. 4. Common - and Fertile - Ground Neuroscience Psychology Contemplative Practice 4
  5. 5. The history of science is rich in the example of the fruitfulness of bringing two sets of techniques, two sets of ideas, developed in separate contexts for the pursuit of new truth, into touch with one another. 5 J. Robert Oppenheimer
  6. 6. Great questioning, great enlightenment; little questioning, little enlightenment; no questioning, no enlightenment. Dogen 6
  7. 7. We ask, “What is a thought?” We dont know,yet we are thinking continually. Venerable Tenzin Palmo 7
  8. 8. Self-Directed Neuroplasticity 8
  9. 9. 9
  10. 10. A Neuron 10
  11. 11. The Connectome - 2 11 Hagmann, et al., 2008, PLoS Biology, 6:1479-1493
  12. 12. All cells have specialized functions. Brain cells have particular ways of processing information and communicating with each other. Nerve cells form complete circuits that carry and transform information.Electrical signaling represents the language of mind, the means whereby nerve cells, the building blocks of the brain, communicate with one another over great distances. Nerve cells generate electricity as a means of producing messages.All animals have some form of mental life that reflects the architecture of their nervous system. 12 Eric R. Kandel
  13. 13. The Mind/Brain System! “Mind” = flow of information within the nervous system: ! Information is represented by the nervous system. ! Most mind is unconscious; awareness is an aspect of mind. ! The headquarters of the nervous system is the brain.! In essence then, apart from hypothetical transcendental factors, the mind is what the brain does.! Brain = necessary, proximally sufficient condition for mind: ! The brain depends on the nervous system, other bodily systems, nature, and culture. ! As we’ll see, the brain also depends on the mind.! Therefore, the brain and mind are two aspects of one 13 system, interdependently arising.
  14. 14. Fact #1 As your brain changes, your mind changes. 14
  15. 15. Ways That Brain Can Change Mind! For better: ! Caffeine: more alertness; ibuprofen: less pain ! SSRIs: more serotonin in synapses ! Thicker insula: more self-awareness, empathy ! More left prefrontal activation: more happiness! For worse: ! Injury; Phineas Gage ! Concussion, stroke, tumor, Alzheimer’s ! Intoxication; imbalances in neurotransmitters ! Cortisol-based shrinkage of hippocampus: less capacity for contextual memory 15
  16. 16. Key Brain Areas for Consciousness(adapted from) M. T. Alkire et al., Science 322, 876-880 (2008) 16
  17. 17. Fact #2 As your mind changes, your brain changes.Immaterial mental activity maps to material neural activity.This produces temporary changes in your brain and lasting ones.Temporary changes include: ! Alterations in brainwaves (= changes in the firing patterns of synchronized neurons) ! Increased or decreased use of oxygen and glucose ! Ebbs and flows of neurochemicals 17
  18. 18. The Rewards of Love 18
  19. 19. Tibetan Monk, Boundless Compassion 19
  20. 20. Christian Nuns, Recalling aProfound Spiritual Experience 20 Beauregard, et al., Neuroscience Letters, 9/25/06
  21. 21. Mind Changes Brain in Lasting Ways! What flows through the mind sculpts your brain. Immaterial experience leaves material traces behind.! Increased blood/nutrient flow to active regions! Altered epigenetics (gene expression)! “Neurons that fire together wire together.” ! Increasing excitability of active neurons ! Strengthening existing synapses ! Building new synapses; thickening cortex ! Neuronal “pruning” - “use it or lose it” 21
  22. 22. Honoring ExperienceOne’s experience matters.Both for how it feels in the moment and for the lasting residues it leaves behind, woven into the fabric of a person’s brain and being. 22
  23. 23. Fact #3You can use your mindto change your brainto change your mind for the better.This is self-directed neuroplasticity. How to do this, in skillful ways? 23
  24. 24. The Power of Mindfulness 24
  25. 25. The Power of Mindfulness! Moment to moment non-judgmental awareness of experience! Bringing attention to what is typically automatic or unconscious! Being rather than doing 25
  26. 26. The Power of Mindfulness! Attention is like a spotlight, illuminating what it rests upon.! Because neuroplasticity is heightened for what’s in the field of focused awareness, attention is also like a vacuum cleaner, sucking its contents into the brain.! Directing attention skillfully is therefore a fundamental way to shape the brain - and one’s life over time. 26
  27. 27. Functional Change Davidson, et al. 2003. Training in mindfulness causes changes in left-sided anterior activation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564- 570 27
  28. 28. Functional Change Lutz, et al. 2004. Long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. PNAS,101:46 ! mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural change ! gamma-band synchrony found here could reflect a change in the quality of moment-to-moment awareness ! It remains for future studies to show that these EEG signatures are caused by long-term training itself and not by individual differences before the training 28
  29. 29. Functional ChangeAn MRI comparison ofthe averaged brainactivity of advancedmeditators and non-meditators. Comparedto the latter, theformer showed moreactivity in the anteriorcingulate cortex (largeyellow area) and theupper part of thefrontal lobes (smallyellow area) (Hölzel etal., 2007). 29
  30. 30. Structural Change Meditation can “sculpt the brain” (Jim Austen, 1998) 30
  31. 31. Structural Change Lazar, et al. 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 1893-1897. the brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in the controls 31
  32. 32. Structural Change Holzel, et al. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging; 191 (1): 36 MR images of participants brain structure were taken two weeks prior to and immediately following an eight week mindfulness based stress reduction program Increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala 32
  33. 33. Compassion Holzel, et al. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging; 191 (1): 36 Positive emotions such as loving- kindness and compassion can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. Increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala 33
  34. 34. Structural Change Toga, et al., (2011) Enhanced brain connectivity in long- term meditation practitioners, NeuroImage, 2011 Stronger connections between brain regions, less age-related brain atrophy, according to the researchers. Stronger connections influence the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. And significantly, these effects are evident throughout the entire brain, not just in specific areas. 34
  35. 35. The education of attentionwould be the education par excellence. William James 35
  36. 36. Know the mind.Shape the mind.Free the mind. 36
  37. 37. Taking in the Good 37
  38. 38. Just having positive experiences is not enough.They pass through the brain like water through a sieve, while negative experiences are caught.We need to engage positive experiences actively to weave them into the brain. 38
  39. 39. How to Take in the Good1. Look for positive facts, and let them become positive experiences.2. Savor the positive experience: ! Sustain it for 10-20-30 seconds. ! Feel it in your body and emotions. ! Intensify it.3. Sense and intend that the positive experience is soaking into your brain and body - registering deeply in emotional memory. 39
  40. 40. Kinds of “Good” to Take in! Things are alright; nothing is wrong; there is no threat! Feeling safe and strong! The peace and relief of forgiveness! The small pleasures of ordinary life! The satisfaction of attaining goals or recognizing accomplishments - especially small, everyday ones! Feeling grateful, contented, and fulfilled! Being included, valued, liked, respected, loved by others! The good feelings that come from being kind, fair, generous! Feeling loving! Recognizing your positive character traits! Spiritual or existential realizations 40
  41. 41. Why It’s Good to Take in the Good! Rights an unfair imbalance, given the negativity bias! Gives oneself today the caring and support one should have received as a child, but perhaps didn’t get in full measure; an inherent, implicit benefit! Increases positive resources, such as: ! Positive emotions ! Capacity to manage stress and negative experiences! Can help bring in missing “supplies” (e.g., love, strength, worth)! Can help painful, even traumatic experiences 41
  42. 42. If one going down into a river, swollen and swiftly flowing,is carried away by the current --how can one help others across? The Buddha 42
  43. 43. The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life.I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good. Bertrand Russell 43
  44. 44. Benefits of Positive Emotions! The benefits of positive emotions are a proxy for many of the benefits of TIG.! Emotions organize the brain as a whole, so positive ones have far-reaching benefits, including: ! Promote exploratory, “approach” behaviors ! Lift mood; increase optimism, resilience ! Counteract trauma ! Strengthen immune and protect cardiovascular systems ! Overall: “broaden and build” ! Create positive cycles 44
  45. 45. Potential Synergies of TIG and MBSR! Improved mindfulness from MBSR enhances TIG.! TIG increases general resources for MBSR (e.g., heighten the PNS activation that promotes stable attention).! TIG increases specific factors of MBSR (e.g., self-acceptance, self-compassion, tolerance of negative affect)! TIG heightens internalization of key MBSR experiences: ! The sense of stable mindfulness itself ! Confidence that awareness itself is not in pain, upset, etc. ! Presence of supportive others (e.g., MBSR groups) ! Peacefulness of realizing that experiences come and go 45
  46. 46. Compassion 46
  47. 47. Feeling Cared About! As we evolved, we increasingly turned to and relied on others to feel safer and less threatened. ! Exile from the band was a death sentence in the Serengeti. ! Attachment: relying on the secure base ! The well-documented power of social support to buffer stress and aid recovery from painful experiences! Methods: ! Recognize it’s kind to others to feel cared about yourself. ! Look for occasions to feel cared about and take them in. ! Deliberately bring to mind the experience of being cared about in challenging situations. ! Be caring yourself. 47
  48. 48. The root of Buddhism is compassion,and the root of compassion is compassion for oneself. Pema Chodren 48
  49. 49. Self-Compassion! Compassion is the wish that a being not suffer, combined with sympathetic concern. Self-compassion simply applies that to oneself. It is not self-pity, complaining, or wallowing in pain.! Studies show that self-compassion buffers stress and increases resilience and self-worth. Different than self-esteem.! But self-compassion is hard for many people, due to feelings of unworthiness, self-criticism, or “internalized oppression.” To encourage the neural substrates of self-compassion: ! Get the sense of being cared about by someone else. ! Bring to mind someone you naturally feel compassion for ! Sink into the experience of compassion in your body ! Then shift the compassion to yourself, perhaps with phrases like: “May I not suffer. May the pain of this moment pass.” 49
  50. 50. Self-Compassion Exercise based on Kristen Neff’s work 50
  51. 51. Three Doorways! Give yourself kindness! Remind yourself of your commonality with others! Hold thoughts and emotions in mindful awareness 51
  52. 52. Beyond the Brain! Gene expression – epigenetics! Cell death and regeneration – telomeres! Behavioral responses – neuroeconomics! Spiritual well-being & awakening 52
  53. 53. Resources! IONS Meditation Bibliography! Rick’s website and book: Buddha’s Brain! Cassi’s books – Living Deeply and Mindful Motherhood! Rick and Cassi upcoming workshops 53
  54. 54. Great BooksSee www.RickHanson.net for other great books.! Austin, J. 2009. Selfless Insight. MIT Press.! Begley. S. 2007. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. Ballantine.! Carter, C. 2010. Raising Happiness. Ballantine.! Hanson, R. (with R. Mendius). 2009. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. New Harbinger.! Johnson, S. 2005. Mind Wide Open. Scribner.! Keltner, D. 2009. Born to Be Good. Norton.! Kornfield, J. 2009. The Wise Heart. Bantam.! LeDoux, J. 2003. Synaptic Self. Penguin.! Linden, D. 2008. The Accidental Mind. Belknap.! Sapolsky, R. 2004. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Holt.! Siegel, D. 2007. The Mindful Brain. Norton.! Thompson, E. 2007. Mind in Life. Belknap. 54

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