Meditation and Gray Matter Increases

meditation benefits

Those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had measurable changes in gray matter density

Posting on the New York Times health blog, Well, Sindya N. Bhanoo explores How Meditation May Change the Brain. Citing research from the January 30, 2011 issue of “Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging” (helmed by lead author Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School), Bhanoo reports that:

“…those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.”

A January 21 article in the Harvard Gazette, by Sue McGreevey, reviews the same research. A few excerpts from McGreevey’s article, Eight Weeks to a Better Brain:

“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.

Amishi Jha, 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 eight-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, 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.

To review the original research article please see:

Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

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