Brain and Immune Function Changes

Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, Jessica Schumacher, MS, Melissa Rosenkranz, BA, Daniel Muller, MD, PhD, Saki F. Santorelli, EdD, Ferris Urbanowski, MA, Anne Harrington, PhD, Katherine Bonus, MA and John F. Sheridan, PhD, Psychosomatic Medicine, July/August 2003, vol. 65 no. 4 564-570

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.

Holzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vanagel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramesetti, S.M., Gard, T. & Lazar, S.W., Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Volume 191, Issue 1, 30 January 2011, Pages 36–43

This study, using MRIs, demonstrated increased gray matter in the frontal cortex regardless of age in participants following an MBSR course. Mindfulness meditation slows down and prevents the normal, age-related decline in cortical structure. There was an increase in size in the gray matter of the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion regulation. It also showed an increase in size in the gray matter of the temporal-parietal junction, the area of the brain important for perspective taking, empathy and compassion.  There was a significant  decrease in the size in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with the fight or flight response. Overall there was a change in participants’ reaction to their environment even when the stressors in the environment did not change.

Enhanced Psychosocial Well-Being Following Participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program Is Associated with Increased Natural Killer Cell Activity

Carolyn Y. Fang, Diane K. Reibel, Margaret L. Longacre, Steven Rosenzweig, Donald E. Campbell, and Steven D. Douglas. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. May 2010, 16(5): 531-538.

Conclusions: Positive improvement in psychologic well-being following MBSR was associated with increased NK cytolytic activity and decreased levels of CRP.

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