In a study published June 11 in the e-journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers using MRI technology showed that even brief MM training caused measurable changes in the brain’s so-called “white matter.”
Study co-author Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon-Eugene, said, “The notable physical changes suggest that short-term meditation can improve self-control, mood, stress response and immunity response.” Certainly improvements I could use!
Here’s how the study worked:
Using “diffusion tensor imaging” and MRI-based technology, study leaders measured key areas of the participants’ brains before and after the training sessions, which lasted 30 minutes. Over a two-week period, all of the test subjects received ten separate sessions.
Here’s the intriguing part: the brains of the MM group showed discernible changes in a part of the brain associated with self-regulation, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The brains of the relaxation group showed no such changes.
The Study’s Broader Implications
This study builds on other work that has confirmed that you can demonstrate structural changes in the brain. What’s so impressive to me is that, in this study, they actually quantify that there’s evidence for changes in the structure of the brain and a dynamic process at work. It’s very important to characterize how the adult brain modifies in response to the environment. This study is a substantial contribution.