DOES MINDFULNESS REALLY CHANGE THE BRAIN?

In the last years a different style of psychotherapy has been emerging. Most people around the world are practicing mindfulness as a way of meditation as well as medical indication. It is amazing how the studies can show the changes that occur in the brain because of that practice.

Neuroscientists have shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. Congleton, C. et. al. (2015) Mindfulness Can Literally Chain Your Brain. Harvard Bissness Review [Online].

Available from:

https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain

[Accessed: 15th March 2016]

Baime, M. (2011), relate that the first researcher to report the effect of meditation on brain structure was Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar who is a researcher in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital. As he said, she performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain highly detailed pictures of the brains of twenty meditators recruited from meditation practice centers near Boston, and compared them with images obtained from a control group of twenty nonmeditators.

The meditators were experienced practitioners, but they were not monks, nuns, or full-time retreatants. They had practiced for about nine years, and spent a little less than an hour a day meditating. The nonmeditators were local volunteers, matched to the meditators for characteristics like age and gender, but with no experience in yoga or meditation.

At the end of the study Lazar and her team found that the brain regions activated during meditation are actually different in people who meditate regularly, but the most interesting evidence suggests that the changes can occur in as little as eight weeks.

Meditation practice is associated with changes of specific brain areas that are essential for attention, learning, and the regulation of emotion as has been referred before. Baime, M. (2011). This is your brain on Mindfulness. Shambala Sun. [Online] p 45-84.

Available from:

http://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/~britta/SUN_July11_Baime.pdf

[Accessed 15th March, 2016]

In addition, I would like to emphasize that a persistent practice is necessary if we really want to observe a brain change.

 

Ruth Talavera Flores

RUTH1

Research Associate & IRIANS’s Representative for

the Iberian Peninsula and Mexico

IRIANS – The Neuroscience Institute

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