Meditation May Stabilize Emotions


A recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Arizona, Boston University, the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and Emory University found that meditation my moderate emotional response, even when people are not consciously meditating. It is the first study to find that the practice of meditation impacts the way the brain processes emotions when not meditating.

Study participants took one of three eight-week courses. One course taught participants how to meditate with a focus on breathing and thinking. Another taught participants to meditate while feeling compassion for themselves and others. The third group took courses on general health. After taking the courses twelve participants from each class underwent fMRI scans of the brain while being shown 216 images selected to provoke a positive, negative or neutral emotional response. The main contrast in response was found when participants were shown negative images. The group who took general health courses experienced increased activity in the amygdala region of the brain, signaling a higher emotional response. The two groups who learned meditation had decreased brain activity in that region, which indicates more stable emotions, and an ability to manage stress well. After the scans, participants were briefed to ensure they were not actively meditating while viewing the images, demonstrating that even while not practicing, learning meditation can change emotional response to negative experiences.

Source courtesy of The Huffington Post. Image courtesy of Io9.

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