Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain
When I’m stressed, I listen to a 20-minute mindfulness meditation tape. It always helps me feel calmer and more relaxed. Many meditative practices can do this. But mindfulness meditation is getting a lot of attention because it seems to help with so many physical and psychological problems—like high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness meditation is a mental discipline. A new study, published in the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage, suggests that one effect of all this focusing and refocusing is increased brain connectivity. At Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers used MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain’s gray matter—the “processing” neurons—associated with mindfulness meditation. At the moment, scientists can only speculate about the relationship between these brain changes and the health benefits associated with mindfulness meditation.