Feeling stressed or depressed? You may one day be prescribed meditation rather than medication, thanks to a study conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ontario.
A research team is the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map brain activity changes in people trained in mindfulness meditation. The researchers scanned the brains of study participants as they responded to various word prompts.
People with no meditation training showed very little change in brain activity from task to task. They mostly engaged the areas along the middle of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for personality and social behaviour.
But participants who had practiced meditation regularly showed a more dramatic change in brain activity when asked to move from the narrative to the experiential focus: they shifted away from the midline brain regions to areas that regulate more primitive functions such as touch, pain and temperature sensation.
“This ability to alter brain activity may explain why so many studies show mood improvements with meditation. It turns out taking a break from the middle regions of the brain, which we tend to overuse,might be just what’s needed to help you feel better,” said a researcher.