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The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model.

Mascaro JS, Darcher A, Negi LT, Raison CL - Front Psychol (2015)

Bottom Line: Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition.Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof.This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA ; Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body. Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition. Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof. This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Proposed model linking core neural processes, active amidst a neuromodulatory backdrop, leading to empathy, compassion, and prosocial behavior.
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Figure 1: Proposed model linking core neural processes, active amidst a neuromodulatory backdrop, leading to empathy, compassion, and prosocial behavior.

Mentions: Synthesizing almost a decade of functional neuroimaging research into a mechanistic model (Figure 1), it appears that three components underlie the neural bases of empathy: early and fast perceptual and motor simulation processes, affective simulation, and slower, cognitive processing. In addition to these core processes, empathy may require a self-other distinction and emotion regulation. All of these processes take place in, and are influenced by, a neuromodulatory milieu that, as we will see, takes cues from the environment and may serve as a powerful target for contemplative practices. Each of these three levels of neural influence and their possible control by meditation practices will be elaborated, but it is important to remember that this model is offered for heuristic purposes, with the acknowledgment that these processes and neural systems are multifaceted and likely influence one another in complex ways that are yet undiscovered. For example, several researchers have noted the important distinction between capacity and propensity when it comes to empathy (Klein and Hodges, 2001; Keysers and Gazzola, 2014), and it is likely that feelings of compassion alter an individual’s propensity to empathize. It should also be noted, as many have before, that prosocial behavior does not necessarily rely on each or even any of these components (De Waal, 2008; Preston and Hofelich, 2012; Decety and Cowell, 2014), just as compassion can likely occur in the absence of empathy, as will be discussed in more detail below. With these caveats in mind, we will detail the neural systems that contribute to empathy and compassion.


The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model.

Mascaro JS, Darcher A, Negi LT, Raison CL - Front Psychol (2015)

Proposed model linking core neural processes, active amidst a neuromodulatory backdrop, leading to empathy, compassion, and prosocial behavior.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4325657&req=5

Figure 1: Proposed model linking core neural processes, active amidst a neuromodulatory backdrop, leading to empathy, compassion, and prosocial behavior.
Mentions: Synthesizing almost a decade of functional neuroimaging research into a mechanistic model (Figure 1), it appears that three components underlie the neural bases of empathy: early and fast perceptual and motor simulation processes, affective simulation, and slower, cognitive processing. In addition to these core processes, empathy may require a self-other distinction and emotion regulation. All of these processes take place in, and are influenced by, a neuromodulatory milieu that, as we will see, takes cues from the environment and may serve as a powerful target for contemplative practices. Each of these three levels of neural influence and their possible control by meditation practices will be elaborated, but it is important to remember that this model is offered for heuristic purposes, with the acknowledgment that these processes and neural systems are multifaceted and likely influence one another in complex ways that are yet undiscovered. For example, several researchers have noted the important distinction between capacity and propensity when it comes to empathy (Klein and Hodges, 2001; Keysers and Gazzola, 2014), and it is likely that feelings of compassion alter an individual’s propensity to empathize. It should also be noted, as many have before, that prosocial behavior does not necessarily rely on each or even any of these components (De Waal, 2008; Preston and Hofelich, 2012; Decety and Cowell, 2014), just as compassion can likely occur in the absence of empathy, as will be discussed in more detail below. With these caveats in mind, we will detail the neural systems that contribute to empathy and compassion.

Bottom Line: Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition.Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof.This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA ; Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body. Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition. Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof. This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus