Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have succeeded in identifying the specific brain functions involved in meditation. Researchers were able to watch which areas of the brain are activated and which are quieted during meditation aimed at anxiety relief.
Subjects, with no prior meditation experience, participated in 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.
The study revealed that mindfulness meditation activates the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are regions of the brain involved with executive-level functioning capable of controlling worried thinking.
The principle of mindfulness is to hold attention in the present moment. Study participants having practiced mindfulness meditation for only 4 days reported experiencing noticeably less anxiety.
This information confirms that with continued practice, the brain’s neuroplasticity can wire itself to control the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings. How liberating to be able to step off the emotional roller coaster of daily living. Neuroscience is discovering that it’s a choice! Aren’t we powerful!
Research at other institutions has also shown that in addition to decreasing anxiety, meditation has some capacity to reduce pain, increase attention and improve memory.
The study, led by Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D, is published in the June, 2013 edition of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.