4 Things Scientists Discovered About Meditation that Might Surprise You

1. Meditation Literally Rebuilds Your Brain’s Gray Matter in 8 Weeks-Harvard Study

Participants in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program have shown to have measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. A study by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter. Data gathered from the MRIs conducted before and after the meditation program, along with psychological evaluations, revealed that the subjects experienced a significantly greater thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception than the control group. Such changes strengthen the body’s physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.



2. Mindfulness Meditation 31% more Effective in Pain Reduction than Placebo-Wake Forest Medical Center

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found new evidence showing that mindfulness meditation reduces pain more effectively than a placebo. Placebo-controlled trials are the recognized standard for demonstrating the efficacy of clinical and pharmacological treatments. The study used a two-pronged approach - pain ratings and brain imaging- to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness. Pain was induced by using a thermal probe to heat a small area of the participants' skin. The mindfulness meditation group reported that pain intensity was reduced by 27 percent and by 44 percent for the emotional aspect of pain. In contrast, the placebo cream reduced the sensation of pain by 11 percent and the emotional aspect of pain by 13 percent.



3. Key Inflammatory Marker Reduced by 27% via Mindfulness Meditation-Carnegie Mellon University

An inflammation is the body's response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals, and inflammatory markers are indicators of the inflammation. High doses of inflammatory markers have been strong independent risk indicators of cancer, Alzheimer's, and other autoimmune conditions.  New research from David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University shows that stressed-out adults who practice mindfulness meditation reduced levels of a key inflammatory marker called Interleukin-6, by an average of 27.5 percent. Additionally, brain scans before and after the retreat revealed that the brains of the subjects developed increased functional connectivity in areas of attention and executive control.



4. Yoga and Meditation reduces healthcare cost by 43%-Harvard Study


Dr. James E. Stahl and his team of Harvard researchers studied a mind-body relaxation program offered through the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The 8-week program taught participants several different mind-body approaches, including meditation, yoga, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral skills, and positive psychology. The researchers found that people in the relaxation program used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year, saving on average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. This means that such programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per patient each year.