Did you know mindfulness can change your brain? Neuroplastic change was observed in the brains of healthy participants following an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. After just 8 weeks, researchers noted changes including an increase in size of the hippocampus, temporo-parietal junction, posterior cingulate cortex and pons, and a reduction in size of amygdala. (1) These are areas of the brain important in the regulation of anxiety, stress, concentration and memory.
One of the researchers was Dr Sara Lazar of Harvard University.(2) Her lab studies the impact of yoga and meditation on various cognitive and behavioural functions and results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain. Her team also found evidence that meditation may slow down the age related atrophy of certain areas of the brain. (2)
Here is a recent interview with Dr Sara Lazar as she explains neuroplasticity and the effect of mindfulness on the brain, in particular, its positive affect on the posterior cingulate cortex, one of the areas of the brain most impacted by Alzheimer’s.
It goes for fifty minutes. For a shorter explanation, check her out here.
(1)Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, Congleton C, Yerramsetti SM, Gard T, Lazar SW. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30;191(1):36-43.