Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation programme appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
In a study that will appear in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter.
For the current study, MR images were take of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness.
In addition to weekly meetings that included practise of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practise and were asked to keep track of how much time they practised each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.
Meditation and the brain