How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body

 In Health

Mindfulness meditation training interventions have been shown to improve markers of health, however the underlying neurobiological mechanisms have yet to be understood. According to initial research, mindfulness meditation may increase default mode network (DMN) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) with regions important in top-down executive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [dlPFC]. In this study, researchers tested whether mindfulness meditation training increases DMN-dlPFC rsFC and whether these rsFC alterations prospectively explain improvements in interleukin (IL)-6 in a randomized controlled trial.

Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Creswell, J. David et al. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 80 , Issue 1 , 53 - 61

Thirty-five stressed unemployed adults seeking jobs were randomized to either a 3-day intensive residential mindfulness meditation or relaxation training program. . Subjects provided blood samples at pre-intervention and at 4-month follow-up, which were assayed for circulating IL-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation.

Alterations in DMN rsFC were assessed using a posterior cingulate cortex seed-based analysis. Researchers found that mindfulness meditation training, and not relaxation training, increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with left dlPFC (p < .05, corrected). These changes in posterior cingulate cortex-dlPFC rsFC statistically mediated mindfulness meditation training improvements in IL-6 at 4-month follow-up. Moreover, these changes in rsFC statistically explained 30% of the overall mindfulness meditation training effects on IL-6 at follow-up.

The authors conclude, “that mindfulness meditation training… is associated with improvements in a marker of inflammatory disease risk.“

Adam Gavsie, MD
Medical Director of The Montreal Centre for Integrative Medicine Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University