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Brain Changes After Meditation

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Anxiety related image Photo: Getty Images

Meditation can be a helpful way to relax and relieve stress. But it can also cause positive changes to the brain, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study included 45 University of Oregon students who either underwent integrative body-mind training (the experimental group) or relaxation training (the control group). The researchers took scans of the participants before and after the training. HealthDay News reports that participants who did the integrative body-mind training had increased brain connectivity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which began after six hours of practice, but was more noticeable after 11 hours. The Canadian Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction point out that the anterior cingulate cortex is more active than the rest of the cingulate cortex when a person is depressed. But why does this brain change occur? The researchers believe that they “may be due to a reorganization of white-matter tracts or due to an increase of myelin that surrounds the brain connections,” according to HealthDay News.

As ScienceDaily describes it, integrative body-mind training relies “on a state of restful alertness, allowing for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from a coach, who provides breath-adjustment guidance and mental imagery while soothing music plays in the background.” The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) adds that meditation focuses on certain factors that can affect a person's health, such as mental, behavior, emotional and social factors.

Other studies have looked at the benefits of integrative body-mind training.

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