Mindfulness meditation does not change the structure of the brain


  • Mindfulness meditation is an anti-stress practice that involves focusing on the present moment and environment.
  • No change in the brain structure of those who practice it is visible on MRI

Science does not validate the effects of mindfulness meditation! Sold as a very effective recipe against stress, this practice, according to a study by researchers at the University of Madison published in Science Advanceswould in fact have no impact on the functioning of our brain!

Focusing on the present moment and environment to gain lasting inner peace would therefore be futile? Some previous studies looking at the results of eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction suggest that it might work on the structure of the brain. But this new work carried out on more than 200 participants (the largest sample to date) buries all illusions.

Three groups of participants

However, nothing was left to chance. The study volunteers, all in good health and with no meditation experience or mental health issues, underwent MRI scans to measure the state of their brains before the study began. They were then split into three groups, an eight-week mindfulness meditation practice group, a group on a classic wellness program based on exercise, music therapy and nutrition, and a third control group that received no training.

At the end of the eight weeks, a new MRI for everyone to measure any changes in the brain structure. Result: nothing! Not the slightest sign of structural change in the brain was detected, neither in the “mindfulness” group, nor in the other groups! In contrast, when participants were asked to rate themselves, the first two groups, those in the “mindfulness” and the classic wellness program, emphasized “increased attention” compared to those in the control group. Something would have missed the MRI? “Self-reported improvements in mindfulness may be related to benefits of any type of wellness intervention rather than being specific to that practice“, advances rather Tammi Kral, author of the study and behavioral specialist.

No happiness on command

According to him, mindfulness meditation only acts as a kind of placebo effect and, as he suggests, “simply choosing to enroll in this practice may be associated with increased profit“. Which does not mean that “mindfulness” has said its last word: “This training covers a variety of psychological domains such as attention, compassion, emotion, and engages a complex network of brain regions each of which can change to different degrees in different people, making overall changes in the group difficult to observe“, point out the researchers. Clearly, if there are benefits to practicing mindfulness, they belong to everyone and do not lead to any reproducible model. For those who would expect happiness on command, one conclusion… to meditate.

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Mindfulness meditation does not change the structure of the brain

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