Monday, 12 August 2013

Science Weighs In


A recent study reported by the National Academy of the Sciences indicated that mindfulness meditation practice “could provide a means for intervention to improve or prevent mental disorders.”   The study followed a group of people who practiced mind-body integrative meditation for four weeks while a control group only practiced relaxation techniques.  Compared to the control group the group of meditators showed a dynamic pattern of increased brain signaling in the anterior cingulate cortex, showing that the brain can be changed by meditation.  It is especially significant that these changes in the brain took place in the anterior cingulate cortex as this region of the brain is involved with mood regulation, and deficits in this region have been associated with attention deficit disorder, dementia, depression, and schizophrenia.  As brain changes took place, the participants in the meditation group did in fact report improved moods.  The control group showed no such changes.

The study was conducted at the University of Oregon, repeating the techniques and verifying the results of an earlier study at the Dalian University of Technology in China.

It is important to note that the meditators practiced consistently for four weeks, twenty minutes each day.  While an MRI showed few changes in the brain after two weeks, after four weeks the changes were significant.  This illustrates how, as with many psychopharmaceuticals, brain functioning changes can occur relatively quickly but not immediately.  The study also demonstrates that the effects of meditation are more significant than mere relaxation exercises alone.  Actual changes in brain functioning do occur.  More positive moods are possible.  So if you begin a meditation practice stick with it and be consistent. Changes in mood will not be immediate but may likely follow after only a few weeks of practice.  Change your mind.  Meditate.

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