Overall, meditating is perfect for brain health!In previous studies, it was observed that there was a difference in brain structure between those who meditate and those who do not. Some differences were noted, but it was impossible to determine if this was due to meditation practice. For the current study, magnetic resonance images were taken of study participants two weeks before and after attending an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings about meditation, participants were given a recording to help them practice meditation on their own. There was also a control group present that did not practice meditation.
Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes a day practicing mindfulness exercises. This is what researchers found:
- There was 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 a significant 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.