Tang, Y., Lu, Q., Fan, M., Yang, Y., & Posner, M.I. (2012). Mechanisms of white matter changes by meditation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 10570-10574. Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1207817109.
Aim. To examine the effect of mindfulness meditation training (Integrative Body-Mind Training; IMBT) on efficiency of neural processes in brain areas associated with self-regulation.
Method. Participants experienced a 4-week IMBT training or relaxation. Before and after, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI; brain imaging) was used to examine several measures of processing efficiency, particularly with white matter (responsible for neuronal signal transmission) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) - a part of the brain associated with self-regulation and the exercise of cognitive control.
Results. Meditation, but not relaxation, was found to improve of efficiency of white matter processing in the ACC (i.e., faster processing speed and stronger connections between neurons). Meditation also predicted better mood as compared to the relaxation group.
Conclusion. Meditation may work by improving brain processing efficiency and targeting self-regulation. In addition, it has implications for improving anxiety and depressive symptoms.