Feb 3, 2011

Posted by in Health & Wellness, Meditations | 0 Comments

Study Finds Meditation Changes Brain Structure Within 8 Weeks

Study Finds Meditation Changes Brain Structure Within 8 Weeks

A new study has found for the first time that meditation produces changes in the structure of the brain (and it does so within 8 weeks of starting a mindfulness-based meditation program)! Where previous studies found differences between meditators’ and non-meditators’ brain structures, this study for the first time has documented a change in the brain’s structure over the course of an eight week meditation course and practice. Specifically, changes were found in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

In this study, MRIs were taken of the brain structures of 16 people two weeks before and after they took part in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. Participants attended weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation (which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings, and states of mind) and received audio recordings for guided meditations. Additionally, participants were asked to record the amount of time they spent meditating. MRIs were also taken of a control group not taking the class.

Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness meditation, and a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements since the beginning of the course. The MRIs found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in brain structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participants also reported reductions in stress that were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.

These findings are exciting indicators of the brain’s plasticity and of the ability of meditation not only to change one’s state of mind in the moment one is meditating, but also to change the brain in a more lasting way. I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to go meditate!

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