Humanisme & Mindfulness - 11, 12, 13 septembre 2015

Mindful attention and sensory information processing

12 Sep 2015

This talk will explore sensory information processing in experienced mindfulness practitioners as measured by startle habituation. Startle (measured using electromyography as the magnitude of an eye blink to a sudden loud noise) is a hired-wired reflex and is normally experienced as aversive.  The magnitude of startle normally habituates very rapidly when startling stimuli are presented in quick succession. However, experienced meditators who practice intensely show attenuated startle habituation during open monitoring, as they maintain the openness and freshness of attention to each incoming stimuli, despite its aversive nature. Interestingly, the theories of sensory information processing conceive of reduced sensory filtering as being detrimental for the efficient information processing leading to cognitive fragmentation and breakdown of function as seen in schizophrenia.  However, mindfulness training has been shown to be associated with more efficient cognitive processing, reduced psychopathology, as well as enhanced emotion regulation and overall well-being. I will present novel psychophysiological data on startle habituation in experienced lay meditators from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition practicing Dzogchen and explore possible mechanisms behind enhanced information processing capacity in the presence of reduced information filtering under mindful attention.