According to a new study, mindfulness practices may increase your attention, but they won’t lead to structural changes in your brain in the short term.
Learning new skills, cardiovascular activity, and balancing training all modify the brain, and mindfulness may do the same.
To see if this is true, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Center Madison’s for Healthy Minds tested over 200 healthy persons who had never meditated before.
Participants had their brains scanned and were then randomized to one of three groups: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Health Enhancement Program (HEP), or a control group that received no instruction.
Certified instructors led the MBSR course. Mindfulness methods such as yoga, meditation, and body awareness were incorporated. Participants in the health-improvement program engaged in exercise, music therapy, and nutrition routines, but there was no mindfulness training. Both groups spent extra time at home watching their shows.
All study participants had another MRI brain scan after eight weeks. There were no significant differences in structural brain alterations between the MBSR, HEP, and control groups.
People in the MBSR and HEP groups, on the other hand, reported greater mindfulness than those in the control group. According to the study authors, this shows that any sort of health program, not just mindfulness meditation, can lead to increased self-reported awareness.
The findings were published in the journal Science Advances on May 20.
The researchers, led by Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison, determined that “structural alterations may be discovered only with significantly longer training”
Mindfulness training incorporates attention, compassion, and emotion, unlike physical and spatial training, which generate demonstrable structural brain changes.
The study authors said that this involves a complicated network of brain regions, each of which might change to varying degrees in different people, making it difficult to discern overall brain changes in a group of people.
In a university news release, Davidson noted, “We are still in the early stages of study on the effects of meditation training on the brain, and there is much to be uncovered.”