Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New York Times: How Meditation Changes the Brain

The New York Times published an article today on a recent study that provides further evidence that regular meditation practice  affects the brain. Compared to a control group, people who meditated 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks showed changes in brain gray-matter density. The affected regions of the brain are associated with memory, stress, empathy, and what they call "sense of self."

The research article was published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Dr. Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Mass General and Harvard Medical School, is first author. (Coincidentally, I printed out a copy of the article last week but haven't had a chance to look at it yet. I guess I'll move it up in my queue and will hopefully post a summary within the next few weeks.) According to the article:Times

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

I've written about changes in gray matter in meditators in a previous post, in which long-term meditators showed greater cortical thickness compared to non-meditators matched for age. A major difference between this study and those others is that the other studies looked at samples of experienced meditators whereas this study involved people who practed meditation for only 8 weeks! The article mentions a control group, but I wasn't clear if people were randomly assigned to either the control or meditation group. I'm really looking forward to reading the original article now! (UPDATE: I've since posted on the original article here.)

To read the Times article, click here.

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