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Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds The Brain’s Gray Matter In 8 Weeks

Stashed in: Stress, Brain, Meditate, Awesome, Compassion, Harvard, Anxiety, Mindfulness, @emmaseppala

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27 minutes a day reduces stress and increases compassion, too:

Test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard University.  The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter.  “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Sue McGreevey of MGH writes: “Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.”  Until now, that is.  The participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.  McGreevey adds: “Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. You can read more about the remarkable study by visiting  If this is up your alley then you need to read this: “Listen As Sam Harris Explains How To Tame Your Mind (No Religion Required)”

Key point for those with anxiety from article:

"Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress." The more you focus on breath and on creative, challenging projects that force you to use other parts of your brain, the more the amygdala atrophies, or as I like to say "resets" into a normal functioning. Do whatever it takes not to feed the anxiety, otherwise you're just building that part of the brain and making it set pathway.

81 Reddit comments:

If meditation can produce such powerful results than why are the most highly trained and skilled meditators not the most highly sought after and compensated people? 

Why are the pontificators of meditation more in demand than people who do the work? 

(Question can probably be applied to many topics)

This is not a trolling question.  We have discussed the need for developing programing and curriculums for hours upon hours. We still have not found the right mix that does not destroy what we know is the best practices and still manageable for novices.  

For the same reason good teachers do not get paid much.

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