Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review of studies backs meditation - up to a point

Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation in which people pay total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of their experiences and is characterized by an open and receptive attitude. It has received growing attention in recent years and two researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy reviewed some of the studies carried out on it. They found that the meditation led to a significant increase in the alpha and theta brain waves that are associated with relaxation. It also found that it activated the prefrontal cortex and that it was associated with "an enhancement of cerebral areas related to attention." Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was effective in reducing relapses in patients with depression; Zen meditation significantly reduced blood pressure and Vipassana meditation was effective in reducing alcohol and drug use in prisoners. However, the review found that the studies were of a low quality and that it was difficult to disentangle the positive effects of the meditation from the fact that it also made people take time out and relax.

Chiesa, A. and Serretti, A. - A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, August 2010, 40(8), 1239-1252

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