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Luders 2009 Underlying Anatomical Correlates of Long-Term Meditation


Nadia
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I think references to this study have been made in a different part of the site, but I thought I'd post it here as well.

 

The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal

and frontal volumes of gray matter

Eileen Luders, Arthur W. Toga, Natasha Lepore, Christian Gaser

 

Full article can be downloaded here: http://dbm.neuro.uni-jena.de/pdf-files/Luders-NI09.pdf

 

 

Abstract:

Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research has provided evidence for

meditation-induced improvements in psychological and physiological well-being. Moreover, meditation

practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity.

Nevertheless, little is known about possible links to brain structure. Using high-resolution MRI data of 44

subjects, we set out to examine the underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation with different

regional specificity (i.e., global, regional, and local). For this purpose, we applied voxel-based morphometry

in association with a recently validated automated parcellation approach. We detected significantly larger

gray matter volumes in meditators in the right orbito-frontal cortex (as well as in the right thalamus and left

inferior temporal gyrus when co-varying for age and/or lowering applied statistical thresholds). In addition,

meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus. Both orbito-frontal and

hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger

volumes in these regions might account for meditators' singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive

emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior. We further suggest that these regional

alterations in brain structures constitute part of the underlying neurological correlate of long-term

meditation independent of a specific style and practice. Future longitudinal analyses are necessary to

establish the presence and direction of a causal link between meditation practice and brain anatomy.

'94-'08 On/off ADs. Mostly Zoloft & Wellbutrin, but also Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, etc.
6/08 quit Z & W after tapering, awful anxiety 3 mos. later, reinstated.
11/10 CTed. Severe anxiety 3 mos. later & @ 8 mos. much worse (set off by metronidazole). Anxiety, depression, anhedonia, DP, DR, dizziness, severe insomnia, high serum AM cortisol, flu-like feelings, muscle discomfort.
9/11-9/12 Waves and windows of recovery.
10/12 Awful relapse, DP/DR. Hydrocortisone?
11/12 Improved fairly quickly even though relapse was one of worst waves ever.

1/13 Best I've ever felt.

3/13 A bit of a relapse... then faster and shorter waves and windows.

4/14 Have to watch out for triggers, but feel completely normal about 80% of the time.

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Interesting part of the article regarding the hippocampus, which has a lot to do with stress response:

 

Davidson et al. (2000) propose an active role

of the hippocampus in emotional responding. They hypothesize that

individuals who habitually fail to regulate their affective responses in

a context-sensitive fashion may have a functional impairment of the

hippocampus. Thus, it is likely that the observed larger hippocampal

volumes may account for meditators' singular abilities and habits to

cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in

mindful behavior. Aside from its involvement in emotional processes,

the hippocampus has also been shown as relevant for attentional

processes and “certain types of imagery”, as summarized by Newberg

and Iversen (2003). Thus, the observed increased hippocampal

volumes in meditators might be partly driven by subjects of the

current sample who pay attention to external and internal stimuli/

events and who engage visualization. Finally, the hippocampus has

also been suggested to modulate cortical arousal and responsiveness

via rich and extensive interconnections with the prefrontal cortex and

in close interaction with the thalamus (Newberg and Iversen, 2003).

Our observation of larger right hippocampal volumes together with

increased voxel-wise GM in the right orbito-frontal cortex and in the

right thalamus is in striking agreement with this postulate.

'94-'08 On/off ADs. Mostly Zoloft & Wellbutrin, but also Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, etc.
6/08 quit Z & W after tapering, awful anxiety 3 mos. later, reinstated.
11/10 CTed. Severe anxiety 3 mos. later & @ 8 mos. much worse (set off by metronidazole). Anxiety, depression, anhedonia, DP, DR, dizziness, severe insomnia, high serum AM cortisol, flu-like feelings, muscle discomfort.
9/11-9/12 Waves and windows of recovery.
10/12 Awful relapse, DP/DR. Hydrocortisone?
11/12 Improved fairly quickly even though relapse was one of worst waves ever.

1/13 Best I've ever felt.

3/13 A bit of a relapse... then faster and shorter waves and windows.

4/14 Have to watch out for triggers, but feel completely normal about 80% of the time.

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  • Administrator

Great find, Nadia. Thanks for posting this.

 

....Davidson et al. (2000) propose an active role

of the hippocampus in emotional responding. They hypothesize that

individuals who habitually fail to regulate their affective responses in

a context-sensitive fashion may have a functional impairment of the

hippocampus....

 

I love these culture-centric "hypotheses" in scientific papers. This one is made in the context of biopsychiatry -- there's got to be a connection to mood disorders in here somewhere!

 

Perhaps meditators have larger hippocampi because calmness itself nurtures neurogenesis.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

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