Monday, August 30, 2010

Integrative Body-Mind Training

A psychologist at the University of Oregon Michael Posner has teamed up with a group of Chinese researchers lead by Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang at Dalian University of Technology. They are studying a form of meditation called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) developed and adapted by Dr. Tang from traditional Chinese medicine.

IBMT involves mindfulness training, relaxation of muscle groups, and guided imagery, and it is accompanied by music played in the background. It's unclear to me how IBMT differs from mindfulness meditation--with the exception of the addition of background music--but there appears to be significant overlap in these types of meditation.

In a recent study using neuroimaging, changes in brain activity were observed in participants practicing IBMT after 11 hours of training compared to a control group who received only relaxation training. (More than 6 hours appear to be required for changes to be measurable.) Changes were most pronounced in the anterior cingulate, a part of the brain associated with the ability to regulate emotions and behavior.

According to a Science Daily article, IBMT is not available outside of China, so I don't know much about it. As I noted, I'm unclear whether there are any fundamental differences between IBMT and mindfulness meditation. This is a danger of some of the neuroimaging research: so many different types of meditation have been examined using different kinds of equipment that it can be difficult to make sense of the results other than that meditation appears to affect the brain. (Click here for a previous post about a review of the literature, and here for a previous post about some of the problems of the neuroimaging literature.) That said, any attempts at controlled studies of meditation are exciting, and what is unique about this one is that the researchers observed changes after only 11 hours of training! A number of studies draw from either experienced Buddhist meditators or people who have completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation program (e.g., MBSR), so this is a pretty cool finding.

To download and read a PDF of the published scientific article, click here.

To read a Science Daily article about the study, click here.

For the full citation:

Tang, Y. Y., Lu, Q., Geng, X., Stein, E. A., Yang, Y., & Posner, M. I. (2010). Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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