Home » News » Mindfulness Reduces the Way Stress Affects the Brain
Mindfulness Reduces the Way Stress Affects the Brain

Mindfulness Reduces the Way Stress Affects the Brain

For the last decade numerous studies have shown that mindfulness training can improve a variety of mental and physical health problems.

Scientists, however, were unable to explain how the meditation technique actually worked. New research resolves the question by positing that mindfulness improves health by reversing or mitigating the way stress affects brain pathways.

Carnegie Mellon University’s J. David Creswell — whose cutting-edge work has shown how mindfulness meditation reduces loneliness in older adults and alleviates stress — and his graduate student Emily K. Lindsay developed the model.

Their work, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, describes the biological pathways linking mindfulness training with reduced stress and stress-related disease outcomes.

“If mindfulness training is improving people’s health, how does it get under the skin to affect all kinds of outcomes?” asked Creswell.

“We offer one of the first evidence-based biological accounts of mindfulness training, stress reduction, and health.”

Creswell and Lindsay highlight a body of work that depicts the biological mechanisms of mindfulness training’s stress reduction effects.

When an individual experiences stress, activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex — responsible for conscious thinking and planning — decreases. Simultaneously, activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex — regions that quickly activate the body’s stress response — increases.

Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response.

Excessive activation of the biological stress response increases the risk of diseases impacted by stress (like depression, HIV, and heart disease). By reducing individuals’ experiences of stress, mindfulness may help regulate the physical stress response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related diseases.

Researchers believe this understanding of how mindfulness training affects different diseases and disorders will lead to many benefits.

Foremost, the knowledge of how the technique influences stress should lead to better clinical interventions as practitioners will have a better understanding of when certain treatments are most effective.

This insight will help them identify people most likely to benefit from mindfulness training.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University/EurekAlert

Mindfulness Reduces the Way Stress Affects the Brain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Mindfulness Reduces the Way Stress Affects the Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/02/13/mindfulness-reduces-the-way-stress-affects-the-brain/81200.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.