February 2, 2011

Brain Waves and Meditation

From: ScienceDaily.com

Forget about crystals and candles, and about sitting and breathing in awkward ways. Meditation research explores how the brain works when we refrain from concentration, rumination and intentional thinking. Electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.

“Given the popularity and effectiveness of meditation as a means of alleviating stress and maintaining good health, there is a pressing need for a rigorous investigation of how it affects brain function,” says Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia. Lagopoulos is the principal investigator of a joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on changes in electrical brain activity during nondirective meditation.

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January 26, 2011

How Brain Activity is Linked to Sleep

From: PsychCentral.com

Brain activity during times of wakefulness affects sleep and sleep quality. While researchers have been aware of this for some time, a clear understanding of how the mechanisms triggering sleep occur has remained largely unknown.

Now, a recent study has uncovered valuable insight into how the changeover from wakefulness to sleep occurs. This discovery potentially paves the way for a host of breakthroughs that could affect everything from sleeping aids to treatments for stroke and brain injury.

Led by James Krueger, Ph.D, Washington State University, the findings were recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and represent the most significant discovery of Krueger’s 36-year career focused on sleep research.

The study centered on a hypothesis that the major energy currency of the cell — ATP (adenosinetriphosphate) — is a key trigger for brain activity leading up to sleep. Specifically, researchers followed the method behind how ATP assists in the release of cytokines, the regulatory proteins for sleep.

“We know that brain activity is linked to sleep, but we’ve never known how,” Krueger said. “This gives us a mechanism to link brain activity to sleep. This has not been done before.”

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November 4, 2010

Why Animals Are Biologically Conscious. The conscious brain has a long evolutionary history.

From: The Blog of Dr. Bernard J. Baars inPsychology Today

To the best of our knowledge, consciousness depends upon brains, and brains are biological organs. In a boxing match, a blow to the jaw often leads to a loss of consciousness, but the same impact to the torso does not. More specifically, scientists have long thought that human consciousness depends upon two large brain structures, the cortex and the thalamus. The daily cycle of waking, dreaming and sleep depends on distinctive global rhythm generators in the thalamus and cortex. (www.baars-gage.com, Chapter 8)

While deep brain nuclei control the daily sleep-waking cycle, the specific contents of conscious vision, like the sight of a coffee cup, are directly supported by known regions of the cortex and corresponding nuclei in the thalamus. Cortex and its satellites underlie speech and hearing, vision, hearing and touch, the ability to make decisions and to control our voluntary muscles.

In contrast, medical students have long learned that the two large lobes of the cerebellum, hanging from the rear of the cortex, can be damaged in humans without impairing consciousness significantly. Since the cerebellum has nearly the same numbers of neurons as cortex, the question therefore becomes: How it is that cortex supports conscious contents? Why not the cerebellum? (Figure 1).

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October 27, 2010

Hypnosis Leads to Heightened Brain Waves and Levels of Consciousness

From: Natural News

Many people are wary of hypnosis because they are not educated on the topic. Hypnosis is a natural state and many people reach this state of consciousness every day without even realizing it. When you drive a car, you are in a light state of hypnosis. You are in control, you have an increased ability to concentrate, and you are operating on autopilot without really realizing it. A great deal of research has been conducted on the hypnotic state and various states of consciousness.

Your brain has four different brain wave states: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. While you are reading this article, you are in the state of beta. You are alert and able to concentrate on this article. The beta state is normal wakening state. Alpha state is a relaxed state. You are able to access creativity and visualization. Theta state is a deeper state of relaxation; this is a common state of hypnosis and meditation. Theta allows you to access memories. You experience theta as you fall asleep and wake up every day. Lastly is delta, which occurs while sleeping. Delta allows your body to heal. You are able to access your subconscious mind during alpha, theta, and delta states and can also reach various depths of hypnosis (Tools for Wellness).

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October 5, 2009

Lucid Dreaming: A State of Consciousness with Features of Both Waking and Non-Lucid Dreaming

U. Voss, R. Holzmann, I. Tuin, J.A. Hobson
Article in Sleep

Abstract
Study Objectives: The goal of the study was to seek physiological correlates of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a dissociated state with aspects of waking and dreaming combined in a way so as to suggest a specific alteration in brain physiology for which we now present preliminary but intriguing evidence. We show that the unusual combination of hallucinatory dream activity and wake-like reflective awareness and agentive control experienced in lucid dreams is paralleled by significant changes in electrophysiology.

Design: 19-channel EEG was recorded on up to 5 nights for each participant. Lucid episodes occurred as a result of pre-sleep autosuggestion.

Setting: Sleep laboratory of the Neurological Clinic, Frankfurt University.

Participants: Six student volunteers who had been trained to become lucid and to signal lucidity through a pattern of horizontal eye movements.

Measurements and Results: Results show lucid dreaming to have REM-like power in frequency bands delta and theta, and higher-than-REM activity in the gamma band, the between-states-difference peaking around 40 Hz. Power in the 40 Hz band is strongest in the frontal and frontolateral region. Overall coherence levels are similar in waking and lucid dreaming and significantly higher than in REM sleep, throughout the entire frequency spectrum analyzed. Regarding specific frequency bands, waking is characterized by high coherence in alpha, and lucid dreaming by increased delta and theta band coherence. In lucid dreaming, coherence is largest in frontolateral and frontal areas.

Conclusions: Our data show that lucid dreaming constitutes a hybrid state of consciousness with definable and measurable differences from waking and from REM sleep, particularly in frontal areas.

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December 11, 2007

The trivial function of sleep

Rest in poikilothermic animals is an adaptation of the organism to adjust to the geophysical cycles, a doubtless valuable function for all animals. In this review, we argue that the function of sleep could be trivial for mammals and birds because sleep does not provide additional advantages over simple rest. This conclusion can be reached by using the null hypothesis and parsimony arguments.

First, we develop some theoretical and empirical considerations supporting the absence of specific effects after sleep deprivation. Then, we question the adaptive value of sleep traits by using non-coding DNA as a metaphor that shows that the complexity in the design is not a definitive proof of adaptation.

We then propose that few, if any, phenotypic selectable traits do exist in sleep. Instead, the selection of efficient waking has been the major determinant of the most significant aspects in sleep structure. In addition, we suggest that the regulation of sleep is only a mechanism to enforce rest, a state that was challenged after the development of homeothermy.

As a general conclusion, there is no direct answer to the problem of why we sleep; only an explanation of why such a complex set of mechanisms is used to perform what seems to be a simple function. This explanation should be reached by following the evolution of wakefulness rather than that of sleep. Sleep could have additional functions secondarily added to the trivial one, although, in this case, the necessity and sufficiency of these sleep functions should be demonstrated.

The trivial function of sleep. R.V. Rial, Maria C. Nicolau, Antoni Gamundi, Mourad Akaarir, Sara Aparicio, Celia Garau, Silvia Tejada, Catalina Roca, Lluis Gene, David Moranta, Susana Esteban, 2007. Sleep Medicine Reviews 11(4):311-325.

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October 18, 2007

Feeling Sleepy Is All In Your Genes

altered states,sleep — thomasr @ 5:35 pm

sleepy.jpegGenes responsible for our 24 hour body clock influence not only the timing of sleep, but also appear to be central to the actual restorative process of sleep, according to research published in BMC Neuroscience. The study identified changes in the brain that lead to the increased desire and need for sleep during time spent awake.

“We still do not know why we benefit from sleep, or why we feel tired when we are ‘lacking’ sleep, but it seems likely that sleep serves some basic biological function for the brain such as energy restoration for brain cells or memory consolidation.” Explains Dr Bruce O’Hara of the University of Kentucky, one of the neuroscientists who conducted the research. “We have found that clock gene expression in the brain is highly correlated to the build-up of sleep debt, while previous findings have linked these genes to energy metabolism. Together, this supports the idea that one function of sleep is related to energy metabolism.”

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September 12, 2007

The biology of sleep

dreaming,journal,meds,sleep — thomasr @ 1:47 pm

sleep.jpegMedscape is running a special topic edition on the biology of sleep. The articles include papers on the management of insomnia; the relationship between passive sleeping and sleep disturbance during pregnancy; and the effects of hypothalamic stimulation on cluster headache and sleep.

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