Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Integrative Body-Mind Training Prompts Double Positive Punch In Brain White Matter

From the 12 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Scientists studying the Chinese mindfulness meditation known as

brains!

brains! (Photo credit: cloois)

say they’ve confirmed and expanded their findings on changes in structural efficiency of white matter in the brain that can be related to positive behavioral changes in subjects practicing the technique regularly for a month.

In a paper appearing this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner report improved mood changes coincided with increased axonal density – more brain-signaling connections – and an expansion of myelin, the protective fatty tissue that surrounds the axons, in the brain’s anterior cingulate region.

Deficits in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex have been associated with attention deficit disorder, dementiadepression,schizophrenia and many other disorders.

IBMT was adapted from traditional Chinese medicine in the 1990s in China, where it is practiced by thousands of people. It differs from other forms of meditation because it depends heavily on the inducement of a high degree of awareness and balance of the body, mind and environment. The meditative state is facilitated through training and trainer-group dynamics, harmony and resonance. …

June 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation may help the brain ‘turn down the volume’ on distractions

Enhanced control of alpha rhythms may underlie some effects of mindfulness meditation

From the 21 April 2011 Eureka news alert

(Massachusetts General Hospital) The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often overstimulating world….

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

From the January 3, 2011 Eureka news alert

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

Mass. General-led study shows changes over time in areas associated with awareness, empathy, stress

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s senior author. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.

For the current study, MR images were take of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.

Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. The analysis of MR images, 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. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

Amishi Jha, PhD, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an 8-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amydala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” Jha was not one of the studies investigators.

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: