Back in April of this year, I wrote about an exciting, if preliminary, study that showed that even brief meditation practice can make a difference in thinking (click here to see that post). More and more evidence shows that meditation may be a key element of a brain fitness program.
A study from this past summer in the prestigious journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that even 11 hours of a special kind of meditation can’t make a difference in the connections in your brain.
The technique, called “Integrative Body-Mind Training” or IBMT is based in Chinese method. The publications are a little sketchy on the exact details of the procedure, but it involves a combination of mental imagery, breathing, and posture exercises done under the guidance of a “coach,” all while listening to relaxing music.
Researchers at the University of Oregon, including the well-known cognitive neuroscientist Michael Posner as well as IBMT’s founder Yi-Yuan Tang used a neuroimaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to study changes in the brains of students being trained in IBMT.
Results showed that just 11 hours of training resulted in significant changes in connections to the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in emotion and self-regulation. The researchers had already shown that IBMT increased activity in the anterior cingulate and improved self-regulation. The new study shows that even a brief intervention can actually change connections in the brain.
The implications are that specific types of meditation practice cna improve cognitive functions, such as attention and resistance to distractions. That could add up to better study skills, being more productive, and possibly even better memory.
Tang YY et al. (2010). Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 15649-15652.
Tang YY et al. (2009). Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 8865-8870.