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Meditation is being researched for improved psychological and memory benefits

Mindful meditation is being tested for brain function and changes in memory, empathy and other wellness factors.
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Researchers report that test participants who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in brain gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30, 2011  issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

  • M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory.
  • The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress.
  • A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

The study’s lead author said the participants practiced mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation that was introduced in the United States in the late 1970s and traces its roots to  ancient Buddhist techniques.

“Objects are used to focus one’s attention, and it could be a focus on sensations of breathing, emotions or thoughts, or observing any type of body sensations,” the researcher said. “But it’s about bringing the mind back to the here and now, as opposed to letting the mind drift.”

“The field is very, very young, and we don’t really know enough about it yet,” Dr. Britta Hölzel, the lead researcher said. “These are still preliminary findings. We see that there is something there, but we have to replicate these findings and find out what they really mean.”

Other studies have suggested that meditation may reduce blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease.  And meditators have been found to have longer attention spans.



Editor, Carolyn Allen

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Publication Date: 2/7/2011
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