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Thread: Dalai Lama encountering resistance from Scientists re: his upcoming speech at annual Society for Neuroscience meeting

  1. #1

    Dalai Lama encountering resistance from Scientists re: his upcoming speech at annual Society for Neuroscience meeting

    October 19, 2005

    Benedict Carey

    In the past decade, scientists and journalists have increasingly taken interest in meditation and "mindfulness," a related state of focused inner awareness, topics once left to weekend mystics and religious retreats. The Dalai Lama has been working with a small number of researchers to study how the practice of Buddhist contemplation affects moods and promotes a sense of peace and compassion.

    In one widely reported 2003 study, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison led a team of researchers that found that 25 employees of a biotechnology company showed increased levels of neural activity in the left anterior temporal region of their brains after taking a course in meditation. The region is active during sensations of happiness and positive emotion, the researchers reported.

    In a 2004 experiment supported by the Mind and Life Institute, a nonprofit organization that the Dalai Lama helped establish, and also involving Dr. Davidson, investigators tracked brain waves in eight Tibetan monks as they meditated in a state of "unconditional loving-kindness and compassion."

    Using an electronic scanner, the researchers found that the monks were producing a very strong pattern of gamma waves, a synchronized oscillation of brain cells that is associated with concentration and emotional control. A group of 10 college students who were learning to meditate produced a much weaker gamma signal.

    Taken together, the studies suggest that "human qualities like compassion and altruism may in some sense be regarded as skills which can be improved through mental training," said Dr. Davidson, who is director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin.

    Yet the neuroscientists who have signed the petition say that there are several problems with this research. First, they say, Dr. Davidson and some of his colleagues meditate themselves, and they have collaborated with the Dalai Lama for years. Dr. Davidson said he had helped persuade the spiritual leader to accept the society's invitation to speak, and was with him when he received the request.

    The critics also point out that there are flaws in the 2004 experiment that the researchers have acknowledged: The monks being studied were 12 to 45 years older than the students, and age could have accounted for some of the differences. The students, as beginners, may have been anxious or simply not skilled enough to find a meditative state in the time allotted, which would alter their brain wave patterns. And there was no way to know if the monks were adept at generating high gamma wave activity before they ever started meditating.

    "This paper has not tested the idea whether meditation promotes compassion or any kind of positive emotion," Dr. Yi Rao, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who helped draft the petition and was one of the sharpest critics, said in an e-mail message.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/19/na...ate.html?8hpib


    What are people's thoughts on this? Wise? Anyone?

  2. #2
    Very interesting, probably shows why some good treatments never become widely used. It also shows how some treatments are pushed for ulterior reasons. What it says is what you hear is biased information and is formed by what group the author belongs, or for reasons that may benefit his groups position. Not to scientific is it?

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