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Re: How Meditation May Change the Brain - NYTimes.com

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  • medit8ionsociety
    ... And it doesn t take long for the brain changes to take place. This article is from 1/24/11 in Medical News today: Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 2, 2011
      Bruce Morgen <editor@...> wrote:
      > <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=general>
      And it doesn't take long for the brain changes to take
      place. This article is from 1/24/11 in Medical News today:

      Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes
      Brain Structure In 8 Weeks

      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 will
      appear in the January 30 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.

      "Although the practice of meditation is associated
      with a sense of peacefulness and physical
      relaxation, practitioners have long claimed
      that meditation also provides cognitive and
      psychological benefits that persist throughout
      the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH
      Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the
      study's senior author. "This study demonstrates
      that changes in brain structure may underlie
      some of these reported improvements and that
      people are not just feeling better because
      they are spending time relaxing."

      Previous studies from Lazar's group and others
      found structural differences between the brains
      of experienced mediation practitioners and
      individuals with no history of meditation,
      observing thickening of the cerebral cortex
      in areas associated with attention and emotional
      integration. But those investigations could
      not document that those differences were actually
      produced by meditation.

      For the current study, MR images were take of
      the brain structure of 16 study participants
      two weeks before and after they took part in
      the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
      (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts
      Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly
      meetings that included practice of mindfulness
      meditation - which focuses on nonjudgmental
      awareness of sensations, feelings and state of
      mind - participants received audio recordings for
      guided meditation practice and were asked to keep
      track of how much time they practiced each day.
      A set of MR brain images were also taken of a
      control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.

      Meditation group participants reported spending
      an average of 27 minutes each day practicing
      mindfulness exercises, and their responses to
      a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant
      improvements compared with pre-participation
      responses. The analysis of MR images, 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 and introspection. Participant-reported
      reductions in stress also were correlated with
      decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala,
      which is known to play an important role in
      anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen
      in a self-awareness-associated structure called
      the insula, which had been identified in earlier
      studies, the authors suggest that longer-term
      meditation practice might be needed to produce
      changes in that area. None of these changes were
      seen in the control group, indicating that they
      had not resulted merely from the passage of time.

      "It is fascinating to see the brain's plasticity
      and that, by practicing meditation, we can play
      an active role in changing the brain and can
      increase our well-being and quality of life."
      says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the
      paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen
      University in Germany. "Other studies in
      different patient populations have shown
      that meditation can make significant improvements
      in a variety of symptoms, and we are now
      investigating the underlying mechanisms in the
      brain that facilitate this change."

      Amishi Jha, PhD, a University of Miami
      neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training's
      effects on individuals in high-stress situations,
      says, "These results shed light on the mechanisms
      of action of mindfulness-based training. They
      demonstrate that the first-person experience of
      stress can not only be reduced with an 8-week
      mindfulness training program but that this
      experiential change corresponds with structural
      changes in the amydala, a finding that opens
      doors to many possibilities for further research
      on MBSR's potential to protect against stress-related
      disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder."
      Jha was not one of the study investigators.


      James Carmody, PhD, of the Center for Mindfulness
      at University of Massachusetts Medical School,
      is one of co-authors of the study, which was
      supported by the National Institutes of Health,
      the British Broadcasting Company, and the Mind
      and Life Institute.

      Sue McGreevey
      Massachusetts General Hospital
      This article is being posted strictly for educational,
      non-profit purposes and thus falls under the Fair Use
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