Evidence from the Rotterdam study has shown that meditation can result in reduced right amygdala volume which is an area that helps with emotional processing.
The researchers used data gathered from the Rotterdam study which is an on going population study that has been running since 1990 and involves over 15,000 participants. For this study the researchers utilised a subgroup of almost 4,000 participants who had responded to a questionnaire about meditation, many of which had also had at least one MRI of their brain and with many of the participants having several MRIs over time which allowed the opportunity to study structural changes.
The results showed that a vast majority of those practising meditation reported a higher awareness of stress but that their mediation practice helped them to cope with that stress.
Meditation practitioners also tended to have smaller right amygdala volume (an area that current research suggests deals with fear and unpleasant stimuli) compared to those who did not practise. Most interesting is that the same was not found to be true with regard to the left amygdala which is associated with positive emotions and memory.
The research doesn’t come without some caveats though, as practitioner’s awareness of their stress level increases. it can itself become a source of stress and even contribute to depressive symptoms. This highlights some of the dangers of practising meditation without an instructor who is able to guide the individual through their training.
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