Help clients build that summer body. SAVE 30% on The Science of Core Training Certificate (9 CECs). Use Code CORECERT SAVE 30% Now »

Mindfulness Practice Increases Gray Matter

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Feb 17, 2011

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Participating in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction [MBSR] for 8 weeks is associated with increases in gray-matter density in areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, perspective taking and self-referential processing, according to a study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (2010; doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006). The purpose of the study was to find objectively measurable neurological changes in the brain that could underlie trait changes associated with taking the MBSR course. Highlighted trait changes from MBSR participation included improved psychological well-being and quality of life, as well as symptom reduction in a number of disorders, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and chronic pain.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, conducted the study, which involved 16 healthy, meditation-naïve participants and 17 control group individuals. MRI scans of all participants were taken before and after the 8-week program. After 8 weeks, brain scans showed that MBSR participants had greater gray-matter density in the left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporoparietal junction and cerebellum compared with controls.

Study authors noted that the study’s limitations included its small sample size and the fact that subjects were physician- and self-referred individuals seeking stress reduction (therefore, results might not be reflective of the general population). In addition, the MBSR program includes multiple components: meditation, mindfulness, group interaction, stress education and gentle stretching exercise. In a future study, the control group would ideally participate in all components except for the mindfulness training. A number of studies have substantiated that the brain can change in response to training and that the adult nervous system has the capacity for plasticity. Understanding the specific changes in brain structure that result in positive functional changes (such as improved well-being and quality of life) is a significant step.

Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Issue 3

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at