In a news release on Nov. 12, 2012 Massachusetts General Hospital has reported:Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain.It has been found in a new study that participating in an 8-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions, even when someone is not actively meditating. Researchers have also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.
Healthy adults with no experience meditating participated in 8-week courses in either mindful attention meditation, which is the most commonly studied form that focuses on developing attention and awareness of breathing, thoughts and emotions, and compassion meditation, which is a less-studied form that includes methods which are designed to develop loving kindness and compassion for oneself and for others. A control group also participated in an 8-week health education course.
Researcher Gaëlle Desbordes, PhD, has said, “The two different types of meditation training our study participants completed yielded some differences in the response of the amygdala – a part of the brain known for decades to be important for emotion – to images with emotional content. This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state.”
Desbordes has explained, “We think these two forms of meditation cultivate different aspects of mind. Since compassion meditation is designed to enhance compassionate feelings, it makes sense that it could increase amygdala response to seeing people suffer. Increased amygdala activation was also correlated with decreased depression scores in the compassion meditation group, which suggests that having more compassion towards others may also be beneficial for oneself.” Overall, the results of this study have been consistent with the hypothesis that meditation may result in enduring, beneficial changes in brain function, especially in the area of emotional processing.