Meditation has long been used to calm the mind and the body, but the long-term effects of such practices are difficult to evaluate. Recently, a team of investigators studied the effects of mindful meditation on emotional processing and reported that meditation may induce lasting effects in the emotional processes in the brain.
For the study, 51 heathy adults aged 25 to 55 years, with no prior meditation experience, underwent mindful attention training (MAT), cognitively-based compassion training (CBCT), or participated in a health discussion group. MAT teaches meditative techniques for enhancing awareness of a person's internal and external environments; CBCT is a program based on Buddhist practices of compassion meditation. The health discussion group served as the control group. Each group participated in its respective intervention for 2 hours per week for 8 weeks. The MAT and CBCT groups were also asked to meditate daily for 20 minutes at home. Before and after the study, the participants completed inventories of self-reported depression and anxiety. They also underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans while in a non-meditative state during which they were shown pictures of people and asked to identify the people as positive, negative or neutral.