Research: DAVIDSON and others,

Listed in Issue 102

Abstract

DAVIDSON and others, Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA, rjdavids@facstaff.wisc.edu, have measured alterations in brain and immune function associated with mindfulness meditation.

Background

Many changes in mental and physical health are reported as a consequence of mindfulness meditation practice. However the underlying changes in biological processes have not been systematically explored.

Methodology

This randomized controlled study used a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training programme for mindfulness meditation. Brain electrical activity before and immediately after and also 4 months after the training programme. 25 volunteers were tested in the meditation group and compared to 16 waiting list controls. At the end of the 8-week period, all subjects were vaccinated with influenza vaccine in order to look at immune function.

Results

Significant increases were found in left-sided anterior activation, a pattern associated with positive affect, in meditators compared to controls. In addition, significant increases in antibody titres in response to the 'flu vaccine were found in meditators. The magnitude of left anterior activation correlated with the magnitude of the increase in immune response.

Conclusion

This study demonstrated that a short programme in mindfulness meditation produces significant effects on brain and immune function that are wholly desirable.

References

Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SF, Urbanowski F, Harrington A, Bonus K, Sheridan JF. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (4): 564-570, Jul-Aug 2003.

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