Brief Mind-Body Meditation Provides Benefits Even in Short Term
by Shirley Archer, JD, MA
There is good news for those who want to enjoy meditation’s benefits but who find committing to a meditation practice overwhelming. Benefits from meditating regularly can be realized in as little as 2 weeks from practicing for just 30 minutes at a time, 5 days per week.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(2012; 109 , 10570–74) reported that subjects who received integrative body-mind training (IBMT) and then practiced meditating for a few hours per week experienced measurable changes in the brain’s white matter in the part of the brain that affects mood and is responsible for regulating emotions.
Study subjects were 68 Chinese college students randomly assigned to either IBMT or to relaxation training. After a total of 5 hours’ training over a 2-week period, IBMT participants displayed measurable changes in axon density, which is related to mood improvements. After 1 month and a total of about 11 hours’ training, axon density and myelin formation—both indicators of the integrity of white-matter fibers in the brain—improved in the IBMT group.
“The notable physical changes suggest that short-term meditation can improve self-control, mood, stress response and immunity response,” Michael Posner, study co-author and professor emeritus at the University of Oregon in Eugene, told HealthDay News.
Posner said, “This study gives us a much more detailed picture of what it is that is actually changing. We did confirm the exact locations of the white-matter changes that we had found previously. And, now we show that both myelination and axon density are improving. The order of changes we found may be similar to changes found during brain development in early childhood, allowing a new way to reveal how such changes might influence emotional and cognitive development.”
Yi-Yuan Tang, PhD, lead study author and director of the Neuroimaging Institute at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, said, “When we got the results, we all got very excited because all of the other training exercises, like working-memory training or computer-based training, only have been shown to change myelination. We believe these changes [in axon density and myelin formation] may be reflective of the time of training involved in IBMT. We found a different pattern of neural plasticity induced by the training.”
While more research is warranted, study authors were encouraged by the findings. “The 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.” To learn more about IBMT and Dr. Tang’s research, go to www.yi-yuan.net/.
Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 10
© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.