A new report has confirmed that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and increase resistance to various diseases.
A touch of scepticism can be a healthy thing. It is, after all, the defence mechanism that stops us falling for the myriad of scams out there on the internet. So, scientific research (when carried out without agenda) is our friend.
A blog feature in the New York Times reports on a study led by J. David Creswell, an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University:
At the end of three days, the participants all told the researchers that they felt refreshed and better able to withstand the stress of unemployment. Yet follow-up brain scans showed differences in only those who underwent mindfulness meditation. There was more activity, or communication, among the portions of their brains that process stress-related reactions and other areas related to focus and calm. Four months later, those who had practiced mindfulness showed much lower levels in their blood of a marker of unhealthy inflammation than the relaxation group, even though few were still meditating.
If the technical language appeals to you, the report states:
We tested for alterations in DMN rsFC using a posterior cingulate cortex seed-based analysis and found that mindfulness meditation training, and not relaxation training, increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with left dlPFC (p < .05, corrected). These pretraining/posttraining alterations in posterior cingulate cortex-dlPFC rsFC statistically mediated mindfulness meditation training improvements in IL-6 at 4-month follow-up. Specifically, these alterations in rsFC statistically explained 30% of the overall mindfulness meditation training effects on IL-6 at follow-up.
These findings provide the first evidence that mindfulness meditation training functionally couples the DMN with a region known to be important in top-down executive control at rest (left dlPFC), which, in turn, is associated with improvements in a marker of inflammatory disease risk.
More details in the source report: http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(16)00079-2/abstract