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Anderson Cooper turns to UMMS for 60 Minutes report on mindfulness

Segment features interviews with Center for Mindfulness founder Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness researcher Judson Brewer, and mindfulness practitioner and neuroscientist Jean King

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

December 15, 2014
  Center for Mindfulness, Judson Brewer, Jon Kabat Zinn, Stress Reduction Clinic, CFM, Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes
  Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, talks about mindfulness with 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper.

60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper’s reporting on mindfulness brought him to the place where it all began in 1979, when Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, established the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass Medical School.

“There are so many different compelling studies that are showing that this is not New Age gobbledygook,” said Dr. Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of medicine at UMMS, home of the now world-renowned Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. “This is potentially transformative of our health and well-being psychologically as well as physically.”

It can be useful for anxiety, depression and stress reduction, as Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, director of research for the Center for Mindfulness, is finding.

In addition to catching up with Kabat-Zinn at a mindfulness meditation retreat for his Dec.14 report, Cooper visited Dr. Brewer at the UMMS campus in Shrewsbury to learn more about the cutting-edge brain imaging research he is conducting to confirm that mindfulness can be an effective treatment for addictions to everything from food to tobacco to opioids—even to electronic devices like cell phones.

“This is just the next generation of exercise,” said Brewer, professor of medicine and psychiatry. “Now it's about working out how can we actually train our minds.”

Cooper was convinced that meditating makes a difference when he saw his own brain scan conducted by Brewer. When Brewer told Cooper to think about something anxiety provoking, electrodes attached to Cooper’s head showed that the cells in his brain's posterior cingulate immediately started firing. But then, enlisting the mindfulness techniques he learned from Kabat-Zinn, Cooper let go of those stressful thoughts and refocused on his breath and the brain cells quieted down within seconds.

Watch the full 60 Minutes segment with Kabat-Zinn and Brewer here, and view an additional interview with UMass Medical School neuroscientist Jean King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and associate provost for biomedical science research in the 60 Minutes Video Extra Why Practice Mindfulness?

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Brewer on WBUR: Mindfulness helps smokers quit: Radio Boston reports on new research into addiction and the brain
Addiction’s impact on the brain: WBUR reports on neuroscience research at UMMS