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Meditation and Sports Enhancers
Posted: 09 August 2012 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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George - 09 August 2012 01:29 PM

But am I wrong to assume that Bach helps me to typeset faster? I really don’t know what the answer here is. Because if it were true (and I find it really difficult to imagine that Bach doesn’t have that effect on me), I may as well assume that a prayer works. Not because God hears the prayer and helps one, say, score a goal, but a person could calm down as a result of believing that God is helping him, and concentrate on his performance, helping him to score a goal.

We know that placebos don’t cure cancers as the cancerous cells don’t give a damn about one’s mental state, but sports or typesetting or whatever we think meditations can helps us with, may feel the effect of a placebo.

I hope I can make a few clarifications.

I do not meditate for some somatic improvement: if I wanted that I would be better of doing bodily exercises. I also do not do it because I want to relax. If I want a momentary relaxation, I can take a nap. If I just want to feel better I could go for a swim (yes, in the lake you see at the picture…). If I consistently have problems finding relaxation I could do progressive relaxation, or autogenic training, which are more directly aimed at practising relaxation (and have some clinical evidence that they work).

So why am I doing it? The main point is that I have a thoroughly physicalist world view. I am not a dualist. I am convinced that the mind is a process of the brain, and not an independent soul that is connected to our bodies. However, that is just a theoretical stance: I do not feel that way. I feel as if ‘I’ am deciding what to type now, I feel separated from my environment as an individual, as somebody with libertarian free will. How to overcome that? And here of course Buddhist practice comes into play. Here is a practice that starting from the view that there is no independent soul, offers a way to learn to experience that, and to live with that without falling into fatalism or nihilism.

One could call it my ‘twofold path’: theorising about consciousness, free will, physics, astronomy, etc to improve my theoretical insight, and meditation to make that ‘praxis’, not just theory.

I notice that many of the participants (yes, you too) may be physicalists too, but in their arguing (I specially think about the free will topic, but not only that) still use dualist concepts. It is very difficult to overcome these, but reading Dennett, Metzinger, ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach’ help a lot. And meditation too.

Now I have no idea how you would like to find the empirical evidence that I am actually improving… People fill their lives (when possible) with things and activities they like, which they think is meaningful. I like the above. That’s it.

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Posted: 09 August 2012 11:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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George - 09 August 2012 07:01 PM

Who would have thought that GdB had such a deep voice?  grin And your English, GdB, is even better when you talk. I am envious.

W H Y   S H O U L D N ’ T   I   H A V E   A   D E E E E P   V O I C E ?

Ah, and you just overhear my English errors. But what I really hate is all those ‘eeeh’s’ and ‘aaaah’s’. I was not able to hear everything back, partially because I dislike my way of talking…

Oh, and btw, attached is the view from the meditation centre…

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Posted: 10 August 2012 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Look, GdB, we don’t really disagree on the effectiveness of meditation. I believe that music does for me what meditation does for you, although I have no idea it could be proven empirically.

And no idea why I thought your voice wouldn’t be as deep. I guess I have an idea what all of you would look and sound and behave like in real life, but those ideas are obviously just speculations. When reality proves me wrong, I feel shocked.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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...and I really should read “Gödel, Escher, Bach.” It’s been on my list for years, but I just never got to it.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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George - 10 August 2012 06:19 AM

...and I really should read “Gödel, Escher, Bach.” It’s been on my list for years, but I just never got to it.

It’s fun! Sometimes difficult fun… but fun!

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Posted: 10 August 2012 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Yes, Jack, those are both interesting articles. I must say, though, that when I had my two older boys participate in a similar study at McMaster University in Hamilton through their psychology department, I became quickly skeptical of the whole thing. They wanted to see if kids who play a musical instrument—my boys play the piano—would become more “cognitively developed” (i.e., smarter) compared with kids who never received a musical education. The study was so poorly done that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to criticize it.

I believe your last sentence is the clincher here. You say the study was poorly done which amazes me that a university would allocate funds just to blow the results by not being thorough. But you’re making Andrew’s argument that actually playing an instrument effects the brain and not just listening. I agree with that implicitly, but I still contend that listening, even though obviously to a lesser extent does have a positive effect, even a calming one similar to meditation, on the brain. I’m not BTW, contending that it “makes one smarter” however. And where can I get hold of that podcast?


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Posted: 10 August 2012 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 09 August 2012 07:35 PM

Here’s another one that discusses not only the effects of playing music but listening as well.


http://www.cracked.com/article_18405_7-insane-ways-music-affects-body-according-to-science.html

Number 5 specifically mentions the changes that occur in the brain by listening. BTW I’m not just listening to my internal metronome but the incessant pecking on any object that will make a sound until my wife goes bonkers and screams for me to stop. Funny you should mention heartbeats. I was a drummer for several powwows (for want of a better word) and Plains music mimics a human heartbeat. The very same rhythm

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I hadn’t seen some of these effects. And, yes, as you say, some of them deal with active music making and some passive. I am skeptical about the Mozart Effect, #2, because I read a couple of years ago that the original study ended up getting debunked. #4, the way it is worded, seems to have come from a single study, so I’m skeptical on music listening’s ability to reduce seizures, particularly because Mozart piano music truly isn’t that special compared to other kinds of good music. Returning lost memories definitely is legit - but that’s just using a common associative technique; it also works with memory of smells, specific touches, and so on. #1 is just plain over-stated. Listening to music or playing it will NOT CURE Parkinson’s Disease. It is possible, however, that it may temporarily lesson symptoms, but the article goes too far with claims.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Ok, then how about this one? Studies show that listening to music not only effects the heartbeat, slower music slows the heart while faster music spreeds it up. This study also shows the effects of blood pressure and even memory is enhanced through listening to music. That is if you can believe the post. A bibliography is attached.

http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n15/mente/musica.html


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Posted: 10 August 2012 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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For an interesting comparison, Jack, there are over 2000 citations for studies about meditation in PubMed; many practitioners of one form or another make use of some subsets of these studies to show that it is useful for various therapeutic endpoints. But AFAIK none of the studies are robust enough to show more than relaxation, at least to a skeptical reader. (Though new ones are coming out all the time).

One big problem here is that phenomena like ‘listening to music’ or ‘meditating’ are so diverse as to be functionally very, very difficult to isolate for the purpose of a good study. Is listening to Bach really the same phenomenon as listening to AC/DC or Steve Reich? At some level, sure; they’re all music. But at another level the effect on the brain might be very different. Similarly there are many different forms of meditation.

That isn’t to say the studies you point to aren’t good. They might be. But it’s to say we have to be especially skeptical of such studies. IMO it will take a very many, very detailed studies to tease out the way things like ‘listening to music’ or ‘meditating’ effect the brain. Doubtless there are an unbounded number of ways that they might do so, and teasing out all the variables is not the sort of thing we should expect to be doable within a few years or even decades.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Just got into your podcast from George Doug; it looks like I’m going back to do some research on the topic. I’m still not completely convinced that music has no effect on the brain, but having no background in meditation I yield to your expertise. I plan to download some of the books you guys recommend though and will check out the post you mentioned. Great stuff and BTW, you all look a whollllle lot younger than I pictured!! I had the impression that you resembled your avatar! Thanks for the info.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 10 August 2012 12:15 PM

Just got into your podcast from George Doug; it looks like I’m going back to do some research on the topic. I’m still not completely convinced that music has no effect on the brain, but having no background in meditation I yield to your expertise. I plan to download some of the books you guys recommend though and will check out the post you mentioned. Great stuff and BTW, you all look a whollllle lot younger than I pictured!! I had the impression that you resembled your avatar! Thanks for the info.

George didn’t need to remove the link to our podcast. I’ve reinstated it in my first post in this thread, for any who are interested. At any rate, I’m not saying that music has no effect on the brain: anything we do mentally has some effect on the brain. How could it not? The mind is dependent upon the brain, so when we think, our brain is thereby effected. What I am saying is that claims of specific, global improvements based on vague causes like “music” or “meditation” are hard to demonstrate, because there are so many variables to control for. I have looked a little into the literature for meditation, though I am no expert. I know virtually nothing about the potential effects of music.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Same here with the exception of the posts that I found. All I have to offer are personal anecdotes on the effects on MY brain as music has always been part of my life. I feel it’s effects daily,  of course that proves it only to me. Surely at some point in the future a neurological study will be done that will answer the question. Until then the blues make me feel low and Brubeck pumps me up.

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Posted: 10 August 2012 09:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 10 August 2012 12:15 PM

I’m still not completely convinced that music has no effect on the brain . . .

Which shows that we even have a hard time talking about music. I even said that actively participating in music does have an effect, and I’m sure you agree, but by just reading this statement without reading your previous statements, one might think otherwise. By context I assume you meant passive listening.

And I’m not necessarily being as clear as I need to be, either. Passive listening obviously affects the brain, but as far as I know, only in the short term. It’s the active participation which has the potential to change the brain in the long term. All my talk about what kind of music participation affects the brain how kind of glossed over this distinction, alas.

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Posted: 11 August 2012 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Not at all Andrew, I do see your point here about “passive music” having less or no effect on the brain. We may be discussing apples and oranges here as people use music for mood enhancement. Now what that has to do with the brain, I’m not certain. As Doug mentioned I guess we’ll have to wait for a more detailed study. What I do know that tactile learning benefits long term memory and have seen the studies that support this as it is often used for students with learning disabilities. So actually playing music, i.e. learning an instrument would effect the brain more than say, just playing the radio. Sounds plausible anyway.

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Posted: 13 August 2012 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Watch this amazing video that documents the effect that listening to music has had on an elderly man in a nursing home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKDXuCE7LeQ

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