Tag Archives: Brain

Meditation may physically alter regions of the brain

Harvard researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital reported that the practice of mindfulness meditation can physically alter regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. 260291_10151674843907518_1073142538_n.png

The study, to be published in January 2015, in “Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging” indicates that the brain’s gray matter may change as a result of meditation.

“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,” said Sara Lazar, the study’s senior author. “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.”

Researchers measured MR images of participants brains during the eight-week “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” program, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. Participants spent an average of 27 minutes in meditation during the program. The program was delivered through recorded audios and guided meditations.

Compared to measurements on MR scans of a control group who did not participate in the program, the participants’ brains showed an increase in gray-matter density in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with learning, introspection, memory and awareness.There also was a decrease in gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region associated with anxiety and stress. However, the Insula, a region of the brain thought to be associated with self-awareness according to earlier research, remained unchanged, and the researchers hypothesize that participants may have to meditate for longer periods of time before any change is noticed in this region.

str.jpgIt has been noted that meditation can reduce stress but according to Britta Hölzel, one of the authors, “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

The researchers believe that these findings of physiological change can pave the wave for a better understanding and treatment of stress-related disorders. The study was supported by the BBC, National Institutes of Health and the Mind and Life Institute.

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Teen brain, brain injury, and addiction

These days, when there are news reports about traumatic brain injury (TBI), it’s almost always related to football. And while one of the effects of TBI is an increased risk of using drugs and alcohol (especially for teens), this post isn’t really about that (but this post is).

This post is about the turf TBIs and drugs share—the developing teen brain. healing-art-brain

The Developing Teen Brain—What Makes It Special Puts You at Risk

We’ve talked a lot about why drug use is so dangerous in your teen years—that it raises your risk for being addicted. (Here’s a great explanation.) The teen brain is still developing—growing. This makes it more flexible, more impressionable; so what you do now has a big impact on who you become as an adult. Like clay being molded before it hardens, like a computer being programmed, you are wiring your brain.

Read more HERE.

Researchers seek answers of brain on (legal) cannabis

For those suffering depression or anxiety, using cannabis for relief may not be the long-term answer.

That’s according to new research from a team at Colorado State University seeking scientific clarity on how cannabis — particularly chronic, heavy use — affects neurological activity, including the processing of emotions. 10501634_10152483771078046_6376046067124349017_n

Researchers led by Lucy Troup, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, have published a study in PeerJ describing their findings from an in-depth, questionnaire-based analysis of 178 college-aged, legal users of cannabis. Recreational cannabis became legal in Colorado in 2014. Since then, seven other states have enacted legalization for recreational use, while many others allow medical use.

“One thing we wanted to focus on was the significance of Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, and its own unique population and use that occurs here,” Troup said.

Through the study, which was based solely upon self-reported use of the drug, the researchers sought to draw correlations between depressive or anxious symptoms and cannabis consumption.

They found that those respondents categorized with subclinical depression, who reported using the drug to treat their depressive symptoms, scored lower on their anxiety symptoms than on their depressive symptoms – so, they were actually more depressed than they were anxious. The same was true for self-reported anxiety sufferers: they were found to be more anxious than they were depressed. MORE HERE