From e!Science News this week:
In a study that will appear in the January 30th issue of Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers report that they are the first to document meditation-produced changes over 8 weeks in the brain’s grey matter. “The study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending more time relaxing.”
The current study took MRI’s of 16 participant’s brains two weeks before and two weeks after they took part in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. A set of MRI’s were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.
The analysis of MRI’s, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participants also reported reductions in stress and this was correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in stress and anxiety. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
You can read the full article from e!Science News at http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/01/21/mindfulness.meditation.training