Meditation has been known to calm the mind, but according to a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences it may also trigger positive changes in the brain.

Researchers randomly assigned 68 students from Dalian University in China to either a "mindfulness meditation" or relaxation training group to find out just what changes might occur after such training. The drills lasted for about 30 minutes per session for a period of two weeks, and by the end of the study, each group was able to accumulate five hours of training. Using a noninvasive MRI-based technology called diffuser tensor imaging, researchers looked at key areas of the brain before and after the training. They used it to delineate white-matter fibers in the brains of participants, which were subsequently measured for any post-training changes.

No apparent improvements were seen in participants who were part of the relaxation training group. But those who were involved in mindfulness meditation (also referred to as integrative body-mind training) showed evidence of measurable changes in white matter associated with the anterior cingulate cortex. This is a part of the brain network related to self-regulation; it has been linked to many mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. Further study may lead to breakthroughs in any of these health problems in the future.

So next time you want to take a breather, give meditation a try. Not only does it help you unwind, but it also leads to healthy changes in your brain.

(Photo by Nickolai Kashirin via Flickr Creative Commons)

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