Brain images of 16 participants in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program, taken two weeks before and after the program, have found measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Specifically, they showed increased grey-matter density in the left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, as well as decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala. Similar brain scans of a control group of non-meditators (those on a waiting list for the program) showed no such changes over time.
Although a number of studies have found differences in the brains of experienced meditators and those who don’t practice meditation, this is the first to demonstrate that those differences are actually produced by meditation.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program involved weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation and audio recordings for guided meditation practice. Participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises.
(2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.
Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. 191(1), 36 - 43.