Scientists are beginning to identify the physical changes—on a molecular level—that result from mindful meditation practice and, in so doing, are enhancing our understanding of how a consistent meditation practice benefits health.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression . . . associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” said study author Richard J. Davidson, PhD, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in a University of Wisconsin news release.
“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” said lead study author Perla Kaliman, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain. The study compared gene expression between experienced mindful meditators and nonmeditators after the former meditated and the latter engaged in quiet but nonmeditative leisure activities for 8 hours in similar environments. Data analysis showed significant differences between the two groups after the activity, but not at baseline. Findings were limited to a single day; the study was not designed to show effects of long-term meditation.
The study is available in Psychoneuroimmunology (2014; 40, 96–107).