June 22, 2012

Mindfulness Meditation Study Confirms What I Already (Sort of) Knew from My Own Experience

I just KNEW that my mindfulness meditation (MM) was helping me. Now, there’s evidence – modest but validating and encouraging – that MM causes positive changes in the brain.

In a study published June 11 in the e-journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers using MRI technology showed that even brief MM training caused measurable changes in the brain’s so-called “white matter.”

Study co-author Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon-Eugene, said, "The notable physical changes suggest that short-term meditation can improve self-control, mood, stress response and immunity response." Certainly improvements I could use!

Here’s how the study worked:
Meditation vs. Relaxation Training
68 students at China’s Dalian University of Technology were randomly assigned to receive either MM or relaxation training. The training for MM (also known as “integrative body-mind training”) involved periods of intense focus and concentration. The relaxation training emphasized the sequential relaxation of muscle groups. None of the 68 participants had received any such training before.

Using “diffusion tensor imaging” and MRI-based technology, study leaders measured key areas of the participants’ brains before and after the training sessions, which lasted 30 minutes. Over a two-week period, all of the test subjects received ten separate sessions.

Here’s the intriguing part: the brains of the MM group showed discernible changes in a part of the brain associated with self-regulation, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The brains of the relaxation group showed no such changes.

The Study's Broader Implications
That particular part of the brain – the ACC – plays an important role in mental disorders like addiction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. The big-picture implication for their findings, according to the study leaders, is this: continuing studies that focus on the white matter of the brain’s ACC may lead to new methods for treating -- or even preventing -- these mental disorders.

This study provides some interesting scientific evidence to validate my own personal experience that MM helps me; my regular early-morning sessions are a highlight of my day. More technically, the study provides new confirmation of the brain’s astonishing “plasticity.” Said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York City: 
This study builds on other work that has confirmed that you can demonstrate structural changes in the brain. What's so impressive to me is that, in this study, they actually quantify that there's evidence for changes in the structure of the brain and a dynamic process at work. It's very important to characterize how the adult brain modifies in response to the environment. This study is a substantial contribution.
Additional reading:


Mamun said...

Thanks for sharing...........wisdom for body and soul

Surya Gamal said...

Thank you John, I agree with you.