Research

Embedded within an academic medical center, research holds a central place in our mission.  Since 1979, the Center for Mindfulness has been dedicated to the ongoing investigation of the attributes and qualities of mindfulness and its role in health and healthcare through an active program of clinical and analytical research.  While our clinical program is a primary laboratory for this exploration, we also utilize randomized clinical trials to evaluate both the basic MBSR format for particular diagnoses and clinical populations as well as the integration of mindfulness into existing treatment protocols.

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density

Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30; 191(1):36-43. Epub 2010 Nov 10

Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, Congleton C, Yerramsetti SM, Gard T, Lazar SW.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. britta@nmr.mgh.harvard.edu

Abstract: Therapeutic interventions that incorporate training in mindfulness meditation have become increasingly popular, but to date little is known about neural mechanisms associated with these interventions. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one of the most widely used mindfulness training programs, has been reported to produce positive effects on psychological well-being and to ameliorate symptoms of a number of disorders. Here, we report a controlled longitudinal study to investigate pre-post changes in brain gray matter concentration attributable to participation in an MBSR program. Anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images from 16 healthy, meditation-naïve participants were obtained before and after they underwent the 8-week program. Changes in gray matter concentration were investigated using voxel-based morphometry, and compared with a waiting list control group of 17 individuals. Analyses in a priori regions of interest confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus. Whole brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR group compared with the controls. The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Read the entire article: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density from Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging journal (pdf)