[MUSIC PLAYING][Neural mechanisms and mindfulness]
JUDSON BREWER: My name's Judson Brewer.I'm the director of research at the Center for mindfulnessat the UMass Medical School.I'm also an associate professor herein medicine and psychiatry.In this tutorial on mindfulness, I'm going to talk about someof the potential neural mechanisms of mindfulness,how it can change our brains.I'll talk about three things.First, I'll talk about the opposite of mindfulness.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: Then I'll talk about brain regions associatedwith this called the default mode network.And then I'll talk about how mindfulness interactswith the default mode network.[Mindlessness]Let's start with the opposite of mindfulness, mindlessness.So Lolo Jones was a hurdler who was favored to win the 2008Beijing Olympics.In fact, she was in the lead at the ninthof 10 hurdles in the finals.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And then what happened?In an interview with Time magazineshe said, I was just in an amazing rhythm.And at one point, I realized I was winning the race.It wasn't like, oh, I'm about to win the Olympic gold medal.It just seemed like another race.And at another point after that, Iwas telling myself to make sure my legs were snapping out,so I over tried.That's when I hit the hurdle.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: So instead of winning, she actually tripped herself up,literally, finishing seventh.Now what's all of this about?It's not that she was thinking.She had plenty of thoughts.But it's that she got caught up in her thinking.And it turns out, there was a studyat Harvard then showed that when they pinged peoplethroughout the day just to see if they were paying attentionor not, about 50% of the time we'recaught up in non-thinking, whether it'sdaydreaming, whether it's stress, or in its extreme view,addiction.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: We're so caught up in what we need to dothat we can't do anything else.Or in its extreme view, you can see how addictions are formed.So we're so distracted from what weshould be doing because we're focusedon trying to get that drug, or get that hit, or get that high.[Neuroimaging: The default mode network]If we're not on task 50% of the time,that means we can measure this with neural imaging.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And it turns out that Marc Raichle back in 2000discovered this process when he hadpeople lay in his fMRI scanner and notdo anything in particular.What did people do?People started thinking about the past.They worried about what's going to happen next.They think about what they're going to have for dinner.They start doing a lot of self-referential processing.Now his group dubbed this the default mode network,because this is what we default to.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And there are two main hubs of this network,one in the front part of your braincalled the medial prefrontal cortex,and one more in the back part of your braincalled the posterior cingulate cortex.This posterior cingulate is particularlyinteresting, because it gets activatedwhen we're thinking about the past or future, when we'redoing self-referential processing,when we're feeling guilty, when we'reinduced to do a moral behavior, and when we're craving.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: So basically, when we're getting caught up in our experiencethis region gets really activated.Now it's interesting, our lab and othersnow have shown that this brain region also getsdeactivated during meditation.And what's meditation about?It's about getting out of your own way.Lolo Jones got in her own way, she tripped herself up.In meditation we learn to get out of our own way.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: To notice what that self-referential processingfeels like.And by seeing how painful it is, we let go.And meditation helps train us to do this,how to get out of our own way.[Real-time MRI meditation]Now our lab is even taking this one step farther, wherewe can link subjective experience to brainactivity using real-time fMRI neural feedback.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: So we can actually give people feedbackwhile they're in our scanner meditating,and they can link up their subjective experienceon a moment, to moment, to moment basis with their brainactivity.And what we've found is that the subjective experienceof getting caught up, getting in our own way,activates the posterior cingulate cortex.And when we get out of our own way,when we're concentrated in meditation or whatever,this region gets deactivated.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And in fact, you can even take itone step farther where someone is just resting in awareness.When there's effortless awareness,this region gets deactivated as well.In fact, we found that some of our meditatorshave reported spontaneously getting into a flow state.So Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described flowas this effortless, selfless, timeless, fully energizedstate.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: We have meditators that are getting into this flowstate in the scanner, and this correlateswith big reductions in the posterior cingulate cortexactivity.[Key points Mindlessness trips you up 50% of the time,you're not here!Meditation helps us to get out of our own way Mindfulnessenables us be in the present moment]So just to bring all of this back together, as we noticefrom the Lolo Jones story, when we get caught up in thinking,we trip ourselves up.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And as we noticed from the default mode network story,this happens a lot.Most of the time-- well, 50% of the time, we're not here.We're thinking about the past, we're worried about the future,we're not in the present moment.This is where meditation comes in.When we're caught up in our experience, when we'reactivating this default mode network-- in particular,the posterior cingulate cortex-- we can notice what this is likeand get out of our own way through mindfulnessor other techniques.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: And when we get out of our own way,this correlates with decreases in the brain activityand the default mode network.So as you can see, one potential mechanism of mindfulnessis to help us really see what it feelslike to get caught up in our experience and to let go.And this can correlate with changes in our brain,such as posterior cingulate gettingactivated when we get caught up, and getting deactivatedwhen we let go.
JUDSON BREWER [continued]: So as you can see here, here's one potential mechanismof mindfulness that links to the default mode networkand links back to getting in our own way.