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'Mindful' Meditation Tied to Healthy Brain Changes: Study
Date:6/12/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Just a few hours of meditation training may change your brain for the better, a small, new study suggests.

Researchers using imaging technology have found that people develop measurable changes in the white matter of the brain after learning "mindfulness meditation." Also called "integrative body-mind training," it involves periods of intense focus and concentration.

"The notable physical changes suggest that short-term meditation can improve self-control, mood, stress response and immunity response," said Michael Posner, a co-author of the study and a professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, in Eugene.

The study was published online June 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers randomly assigned 68 undergraduates at Dalian University of Technology, in China, to either a meditation or a relaxation-training group. None of the students had any previous training in meditation.

The authors say their earlier research showed that learning can alter white matter, which affects how the brain learns, acting as a relay system and coordinating among different brain regions.

In the latest study, the researchers set out to measure the degree of alteration, focusing on areas of the brain that they felt were most likely to change from the training the participants received.

The authors used what is called "diffusion tensor imaging," a noninvasive MRI-based technology to delineate white-matter fibers in the brains of participants. They also applied other technology to measure the structural plasticity -- the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience -- of the brain's white matter.

Key areas of the brain were measured before and after the meditation training, which involved 30 minutes of either integrative body-mind training or relaxation traini
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