About this Research Topic
The scientific study of mindfulness meditation has received increasingly growing interest over the past years within the fields of psychology, neuroscience and behavioral medicine. In fact, there is now strong evidence that mindfulness based interventions (1) are effective for numerous clinical conditions (such as reducing distress in chronic pain and preventing depression relapse – for a review see Kerr et al., 2013), and (2) elicit measurable changes in brain function and structure (Hoelzel et al., 2011).
Compared to the extensive body of work on mindfulness-based practices however, far fewer scientific studies (especially within the field of neuroscience) have examined movement-based embodied contemplative practices such as Hatha Yoga or Tai Chi. One of the likely reasons is the inherent challenge of dealing with their multifaceted nature, as they typically involve numerous components such as specific physical postures or movement sequences, specialized use of the breath and relaxation techniques which are coupled with top down modulation of attention (Wayne & Kaptchuk, 2008). At the same time however, recent clinical trials suggest these methods are promising for syndromes as diverse as fibromyalgia (Wang et al., 2010), supportive-care in cancer patients (Harder et al., 2012) and symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease (Li et al., 2012).
An important challenge for scientists examining embodied contemplative practices is therefore how to translate the methods applied to mindfulness meditation to these more complex practices. Examples of outstanding questions to be addressed include: 1) Can some of the mindfulness-related neuroscientific insights about emotion regulation, interoception, attention regulation and changes in self processing also be found for Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi and other embodied contemplative practices? 2) What does the physical movement aspect of embodied therapies such as Hatha Yoga and Tai Chi contribute that is distinctive / additional to standard mindfulness based therapies? 3) How can studies of neural and physiological mechanisms underlying embodied contemplative therapies inform their use in different clinical conditions?
The current Research Topic in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has the goal of publishing articles that present the most recent state of science addressing some of these questions. We welcome new empirical findings, theoretical proposals as well as thorough scientific reviews, and specific topics can include but are not limited to:
• Changes in brain activation, functioning and organization that can be attributed to embodied contemplative practices
• Direct effects on the sensory and motor systems
• Direct effects on cortical mechanisms underlying body representation / ownership
• Measurable effects on cognition
• Effects on emotional self-regulation
• Basic scientific mechanisms underlying therapeutic applications for clinical populations
• Theoretical reviews comparing contrasting neural mechanisms underlying conventional exercise vs. movement-oriented contemplative therapies
• Proposals of frameworks attempting to provide scientific translations of therapeutic constructs commonly referred to in the context of embodied contemplative practices (e.g. Prana)
Note: articles or reviews that present ungrounded speculative opinion or lack a firm evidence-base derived from empirical neuroscience, psychology, behavioral medicine or a related discipline will not be considered for this Research Topic.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.