The findings suggest that meditation, long promoted as a technique to reduce anxiety and stress, might produce important biological effects that improve a person's resiliency.
Richard Davidson, Vilas Professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison, led he research team. The study, conducted at the biotechnology company Promega near Madison, will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
"Mindfulness meditation," often recommended as an antidote to the stress and pain of chronic disease, is a practice designed to focus one's attention intensely on the moment, noting thoughts and feelings as they occur but refraining from judging or acting on those thoughts and feelings. The intent is to deepen awareness of the present, develop skills of focused attention, and cultivate positive emotions such as compassion.
The study was then described and then this conclusion was reported:
The findings confirmed the researchers' hypothesis: the meditation group showed an increase of activation in the left-side part of the frontal region. This suggests that the meditation itself produced more activity in this region of the brain. This activity is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state.
The research team also tested whether the meditation group had better immune function than the control group did. All the study participants got a flu vaccine at the end of the eight-week meditation group. Then, at four and eight weeks after vaccine administration, both groups had blood tests to measure the level of antibodies they had produced against the flu vaccine. While both groups (as expected) had developed increased antibodies, the meditation group had a significantly larger increase than the controls, at both four and eight weeks after receiving the vaccine.
I've actually reported on this research before here on the meditation blog but I came across it again today and wanted to share it with you. Anything that helps motivate us to practice is all to the good.