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article imageStudy suggests meditation is effective therapy for pain, anxiety

By Sravanth Verma     Apr 11, 2015 in Health
Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found that yoga and meditation may be effective as a pain and anxiety therapy.
Rebecca Erwin, assistant professor of neurology at the medical center said, "We're coming to recognize that meditation changes people's brains. And we're just beginning to gain understanding of what those changes mean and how they might benefit the meditator."
Wells has conducted several studies that look at how meditation and yoga help with mild cognitive impairment, such as memory loss and migraines. Participants aged between 55 and 90 with mild cognitive impairment were asked to practice meditation for eight weeks, and were found to have significantly improved functional connectivity in that part of the brain's neuronal network that activates during memory retrieval. They also found less atrophy in the hippo-campus, which is the part of the brain that handles emotions, learning and memory.
Wells' has also conducted a study that looked at how a similar eight-week course of meditation helps migrane patients, who suffer from less frequent and severe attacks, and a greater sense of self-control, as compared to those who go through regular therapy. "Both of these were pilot studies with small subject groups and additional research is needed, but I'm still very excited by the findings," said Wells.
Prior studies have reported how this ancient spiritual practice helps with regulating stress hormones, allows patients to sleep better, and reduces the side effects of medications. Other studies have also looked at how various schools of yoga stack up in terms of medical benefits.
Fadel Zeidan, also an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest, has been working on studying the benefits of meditation for a few years. "There is plenty of evidence that meditation can improve a host of issues, such as pain and cognitive function, and anxiety is perhaps at the top of the list," Zeidan said. "In these studies we've been able to get a better sense of the brain regions associated with reducing pain and anxiety during meditation," Zeidan added. "Basically, by having people meditate while their brains are being scanned we've been able to objectively verify what people like Buddhist monks have been reporting about meditation for thousands of years."
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