I had a chat with my former University of Wisconsin colleague Richard Davidson during my visit to Madison, WI last week, and he pointed me to an excellent open source review article by Laukkonen and Slagter, From many to (n)one: Meditation and the plasticity of the predictive mind. They offer an integrated predictive processing account of three main styles of meditation. I just finished reading through their lucid account and plan to carefully re-read it several times. I pass on the summary points and abstract:
• Predictive processing provides a novel theoretical window on meditation.
• Deconstructive meditations progressively reduce temporally deep processing.
• Insight experiences arise during meditation due to Bayesian model reduction
• Meditation deconstructs self models by reducing abstract processing.
• Non-dual awareness or pure consciousness is the ‘here and now’.Abstract
How profoundly can humans change their own minds? In this paper we offer a unifying account of deconstructive meditation under the predictive processing view. We start from simple axioms. First, the brain makes predictions based on past experience, both phylogenetic and ontogenetic. Second, deconstructive meditation brings one closer to the here and now by disengaging anticipatory processes. We propose that practicing meditation therefore gradually reduces counterfactual temporally deep cognition, until all conceptual processing falls away, unveiling a state of pure awareness. Our account also places three main styles of meditation (focused attention, open monitoring, and non-dual) on a single continuum, where each technique relinquishes increasingly engrained habits of prediction, including the predicted self. This deconstruction can also permit certain insights by making the above processes available to introspection. Our framework is consistent with the state of empirical and (neuro)phenomenological evidence and illuminates the top-down plasticity of the predictive mind. Experimental rigor, neurophenomenology, and no-report paradigms are needed to further understanding of how meditation affects predictive processing and the self.