By his own admission, neuroscientist Richard Davidson used to be "much more volatile." The good news is that the frequency of his visibly-
angry episodes has "dramatically changed over the last 10 years in particular."
Although Davidson leads a self-described "very stressful life," he has found an effective way to remain fairly calm. In the article Changing
our brains, changing ourselves, Lea Winerman of the American Psychological Association's Monitor reports that Davidson begins each day with a 45-minute meditation session. Meditation has helped him to non-judgmentally attend to his emotions rather than to perseverate upon them.
Seeking to discover why meditation can effect such beneficial change, Winerman interviewed Davidson with some key questions about brain function. Davidson explained that 40 years ago emotion was regarded as a "primitive kind of psychological process" that was kept in "the basement of the brain." Cognitive scientists
therefore used to view emotion as "just something that interrupts cognition."
These days, however, neuroscientists have come to realize that emotion plays a significant role in cognitive functions such as decision-making. Davidson believes that the prefrontal cortex - rather than just the limbic system and brain stem - is integrally involved with emotion. He cites neuroimaging studies which show a strong connectivity between prefrontal activation and the amygdala.
Davidson states that mindfulness meditation can teach people to "pay attention nonjudgmentally" to their emotional interactions, particularly the negative ones. In this way, meditators can learn to bounce back from difficult experiences as opposed to traumatically replaying them.
Copyright September 26, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved