Meditation has long been used to relax and reduce stress levels, and we’re now close to understanding why it works. Using MRI scans, scientists have shown that meditation has measurable effects on the brain, even after only a few weeks of practice. Pictured at the top are two cross-sections of a patient’s brain, before and after mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy; the blue and purple areas in the right-hand picture reveal an increase in the thickness of these regions. In the brain sections below, coloured dots indicate the parts of the brain affected, many of which are known to be involved in self-awareness and emotions. These physical changes were duly accompanied by a decrease in anxiety, but no differences were seen in individuals not exposed to meditation. This suggests that thoughts and emotions can shape the very structure of our brains to improve our wellbeing – definitely something to meditate upon.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.