Whereas there is relatively good evidence that mindfulness meditation has beneficial effects on health and mental health, the mechanism of action for the changes seen in mindfulness practitioners has been a little bit obscure.
An article published online in Biological Psychiatry in January 2016 provides us with important information about how mindfulness meditation works.
In particular it correlates changes in brain functioning and reductions in inflammation in the body in people who are beginning a mindfulness practice.
In the study, 35 stressed-out jobseekers were randomized to either a three day intensive training program in mindfulness or training in relaxation techniques. Brain function was assessed before and after the training and blood was drawn before the training and at four and six months after the training to look at markers for inflammation.
The study showed that those who received mindfulness training, but not those who were trained in other relaxation techniques, showed increased connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and what’s called the default mode network (the parts of the brain that are active in a resting state) after three days of training, and that this increased conductivity in turn correlated with reductions in inflammation over the following six months.
A Combination for Brain Health
This past week was a particularly good week in the New York Times health section as this important article was summarized along with an article showing that aerobic exercise, but not anaerobic exercise, was associated with neuronal growth…
Taken together these two articles show that the combination of mindfulness practice and aerobic exercise are critical practices that support healthy brain and body functioning.
“Alterations in Resting State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” J. David Creswell, Adrienne A. Taren, Emily K. Lindsay, Carol M. Greco, Peter J. Gianaros, April Fairgrieve, Anna L. Marsland, Kirk Warren Brown, Baldwin M. Way, Rhonda K. Rosen, Jennifer L. Ferris. Biological Psychiatry. Article in Press. February 2016.