Meditation causes beneficial structural changes in the brain

By Staff Writer

Mindfulness meditation may be more beneficial to individuals who have suffered trauma or have developed an anxiety disorder than previously thought. A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital has found that the practice causes changes to the structure of the brain, which may improve a range of mental functions, including reducing stress.

While earlier studies showed that meditaters experience less stress and anxiety, it was assumed that this was simply because they spend more time relaxing. However, this is among the first studies to show that the practice actually leads to structural changes in the brain that last much longer than previously thought.

For the study, researchers took MRI scans of participants’ brains before and after they began an eight-week meditation course. Those who completed the course showed greater density in areas of the hippocampus that are associated with learning and memory. These participants also reported feeling less stress and a greater sense of self.

The researchers said that these benefits may be particularly important for individuals who have suffered trauma and are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder or anxiety.