Meditation leads to lasting changes in brain function

The Martinos Center’s Gaelle Desbordes and colleagues have shown that meditation can have lasting impact on brain function, even outside periods of formal meditation.

Their research focused on a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in the processing of emotional stimuli. Functional MRI scans showed decreased activity in the amygdala in response to images with emotional content after eight weeks of meditation training.

The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that meditation training might induce process-specific learning – as opposed to stimulus- or task-specific learning – and thus could lead to lasting changes in mental function.

Desbordes and colleagues published the findings in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last fall. They are also investigating meditation-related changes in the autonomic nervous system, both in novices and experienced meditators.