Stanford University's Robert Sapolsky and others have shown how chronic stress may contribute to the death of neurons in our brains.
The question is, with all the thousands of courses and products out there that promise stress management miracles, how can one evaluate them?
Alvaro Fernandez is the CEO and Co-Founder of SharpBrains.com aska - How do we know which ones are science-based and have shown results?
He says that probably the most promising area of scientific inquiry for stress management is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
An increasing number of neuroscientists (such as UMass Medical School's Jon Kabat-Zinn and University of Wisconsin-Madison's Richard Davidson) have been investigating the ability of trained meditators to develop and sustain attention and visualizations and to work positively with powerful emotional states and stress through the directed mental processes of meditation practices. And have put their research into practice for the benefit of many hospital patients through their Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs.
The Mind & Life Institute, led by Adam Engle, has provided critical support to many neuroscientists who want to study the health benefits of meditation and have developed MBSR programs.
Fernandez and his wife have recently conducted a brain training experiment, in the form of a breathing & meditation retreat, with some neuroscientists and Adam Engle, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Mind & Life Institute.
The Mind and Life Dialogues "started in 1987 as an experiment to determine whether a scientific exchange could occur between modern science and Buddhism. MLI has now sponsored 14 dialogues (between the Dalai Lama and neuroscientists) over the last 20 years. In that time MLI has become a recognized world leader in the emerging scientific investigation of the effects of contemplative practices on the brain, behavior, and the translation of this data into effective tools to benefit all people everywhere."
The Institute sponsors research in a number of ways, and they have just announced that the 3rd annual Scientists Retreat will take place at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, January 8-15, 2008.
A description of the program: "This course has been organized by scientists, for scientists. Its goals are to help researchers in the mind sciences experience in-depth training in meditation and explore ways in which a rigorous and systematic approach to introspection can inform research.
We consider this to be a rare opportunity to advance the scientific study of the human mind. Vipassana is an ancient method of introspection that readily conforms to the spirit of empirical science. It is simply a means of training the mind to be more keenly aware of sensory phenomena and the flow of thought."