Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meditation Helps Mental Health?

While many people remain skeptical of the positive affects of meditation, a recent study found changes in the brains of those who meditate. While several other subjective studies concluded that meditation helps overall wellness,  this is the first objective study to claim an actual change in brain matter. The density of gray matter in  areas of the brain related to a person’s sense of self, memory, empathy and stress, are all positively affected.

 Doctors took MRI brain scans before and after participants began their meditation 30-minute daily routine for  eight weeks. They found a reduction of gray-matter in the experimental group’s amygdales which reduced the participant’s anxiety, fears, and stress levels while the increase of gray matter in the hippocampus helped their memory and learning abilities. A control group, which did not participate in meditation, did not have a decrease in the gray-matter in their amygdales’ or an increase of gray-matter in their hippocampus’ like the experimental group experienced.

The experimental group all practiced the same form of meditation called mindfulness meditation derived from ancient Buddhist techniques. The study’s lead author, Britta H√∂lzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, reminds us that the field is still very new and remarks that, “…these are still quite preliminary finding. We see that there is something there, but we have to replicate these finding to find out what they really mean.” 

--Shannon Egan

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