Short-Term Meditation Improves Brain Function

Dynamic pattern of change seen around anterior cingulate cortex, involved in self-regulation

TUESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Meditating for only a few weeks leads to improved white matter changes in areas of the brain linked to self-regulation, according to a study published online June 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Yi-Yuan Tang, Ph.D., from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and colleagues used diffusion tensor imaging to assess white matter integrity in 45 U.S. undergraduates who had been randomized to a four-week program of integrative body-mind training (IBMT; a form of mindfulness meditation) or relaxation training as a control. An additional study was performed in 68 Chinese undergraduates who received similar training for two weeks.

The researchers found that, in the four-week study, IBMT increased fractional anisotropy (indicating improved white matter efficiency) in areas around the anterior cingulate cortex, which was accompanied by decreased radial diffusivity (interpreted as improved myelin) and axial diffusivity (interpreted as involving other mechanisms, such as axonal density). In the two-week study, IBMT only reduced axial diffusivity and improved mood.

"Our results demonstrate the time-course of white matter neuroplasticity in short-term meditation," Tang and colleagues conclude. "This dynamic pattern of white matter change involving the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain network related to self-regulation, could provide a means for intervention to improve or prevent mental disorders."

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