JC #18: From many to one: Meditation and the plasticity of the predictive mind

In this journal club, Ruben Laukkonen will discuss his recent paper “From many to one: Meditation and the plasticity of the predictive mind”.

Abstract
How profoundly can humans change their own minds? In this paper we offer a unifying account of meditation under the predictive processing view of living organisms. We start from relatively simple axioms. First, the brain is an organ that serves to predict based on past experience, both phylogenetic and ontogenetic. Second, meditation serves to bring one closer to the here and now by disengaging from anticipatory processes. We propose that practicing meditation therefore gradually reduces predictive processing, in particular counterfactual cognition—the tendency to construct abstract and temporally deep representations—until all conceptual processing falls away. Our Many- to-One account also places three main styles of meditation (focused attention, open monitoring, and non-dual meditation) on a single continuum, where each technique progressively relinquishes increasingly engrained habits of prediction, including the self. This deconstruction can also make the above processes available to introspection, permitting certain insights into one’s mind. Our review suggests that our framework is consistent with the current state of empirical and (neuro)phenomenological evidence in contemplative science, and is ultimately illuminating about the plasticity of the predictive mind. It also serves to highlight that contemplative science can fruitfully go beyond cognitive enhancement, attention, and emotion regulation, to its more traditional goal of removing past conditioning and creating conditions for potentially profound insights. Experimental rigor, neurophenomenology, and no-report paradigms combined with neuroimaging are needed to further our understanding of how different styles of meditation affect predictive processing and the self, and the plasticity of the predictive mind more generally.

About the speaker: 
Ruben Laukkonen is a cognitive neuroscientist at the VU University of Amsterdam. He received his PhD from The University of Queensland and is now a postdoctoral scientist at the VU. His research focuses on sudden insight experiences and the effects of intensive meditation on the mind and brain. Ruben has an eclectic contemplative background, including different meditation traditions such as Zen, Advaita, and Theravada. Prior to science he competed internationally in Muay Thai, hosted a music festival, and surfed the East Coast of Australia spending most of his weekends in a van. Ruben regularly gives talks on meditation, psychedelics, and the nature of insight experiences.

Check out the event here:

Location: Online (Zoom address communicated via members email newsletter)

This is a free event for APRA members.

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