Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

In a study that appeared in the January 30, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter (the brain tis­sue that con­tains nerve cells).

Anal­y­sis of the brain scans, which fo­cused on ar­eas where medita­t­ion-as­so­ci­at­ed dif­fer­ences were seen in ear­li­er stud­ies, found in­creased grey-mat­ter dens­ity in the hip­po­cam­pus, known to be im­por­tant for learn­ing and mem­o­ry, and in struc­tures as­so­ci­at­ed with self-a­ware­ness, compas­sion, empathy, in­tro­spec­tion and stress.

The re­duc­tions in stress re­ported by the par­ti­ci­pants were al­so cor­re­lat­ed with de­creased grey-mat­ter dens­ity in the amyg­da­la, a struc­ture known to play an im­por­tant role in anx­i­e­ty and stress, re­search­ers said. None of these changes were seen in the non-med­i­ta­tors.

Yes, it appears that meditating for half an hour a day for 8 weeks can increase the density of grey matter in the hippocampus ... further proof, it that be needed, of both the plasticity of our brains and the health and other benefits of meditation (especially mindfulness meditation).
There are now about 1,500 studies on mindfulness, but many more studies examining the benefits of mindfulness are emerging.
All very exciting.

NOTE. This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.

Resource: Britta K Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006


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