Benefits of Meditation in the Brain

How Meditation Can Change Your Brain

Benefits of Meditation in the Brain - How Meditation Can Change Your Brain

A recent study, led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers and senior author Sara Lazar, PhD, has documented structural changes in the brain of individuals who took part in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these [cognitive and psychological] improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing,” says Lazar. To conduct the study, MR images were taken of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before, and after, participating in the 8-week program. MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators during the same time period. Participants were asked to attend weekly meetings to practice mindfulness meditation, focus on nonjudgmental awareness, and listen to audio recordings of guided meditation practice. After analyzing MR images, the MGH research team found brain changes that were not seen in the control group: an increase in grey-matter density in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory), and in correlation with less stress, a decrease of grey-matter density in the amygdala.  Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist at the University of Miami states, “these results…demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced…but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research.”

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