An MBSR study involving MRIs showed increases in gray matter of the left hippocampus which is involved in learning, memory, emotional regulation. The study also showed an increase in gray matter of the temporal-parietal junction which is involved in perspective taking, empathy and compassion. A decrease in the size of the Amygdala was also seen. The amygdala is involved in the fight, flight, or freeze response and is activated in stress reactions. This decrease in the size of the amygdala has been associated proportionately with a reported reduction in perceived stress level. Mindfulness practice has also been shown to reduce the normal loss of gray matter associated with aging. Holzel and Lazar et al 2011
Other studies have shown an improvement in coping, a reduction in anxiety and panic and an enhancement in measures of well being. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has shown reductions in depressive episodes of recurrent depression similar to the rates of antidepressants in individuals who have a history of three or more episodes of depression.
The use of mindfulness practices have been show to improve of quality of life and coping as well as improved immune response in studies involving individuals with conditions such as fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and breast cancer in various studies.
Mindfulness practice has been associated with reductions in professional burnout, more patient centered care, and an improved sense of well being in medical and mental health providers. In one study, it was shown to improve client outcome in cases where psychotherapists received mindfulness training.
Study showing beneficial changes in brain due to participation in MBSR Mindfulness program. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/
Mindfulness Meditation, How it works in the Brain. Huffington post article
Article in National Institute of Health discussing structural changes in brain due to mindfulness practices. NIH
Links to various research articles about mindfulness and a video discussing research University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine
Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks Science Daily
Article discussing study finding that Mindfulness can increase connections in brain. Harvard Health Publications- Harvard Medical School
Brief Summary of Mindfulness Research Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D. presented at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society 6th AnnualConference, Worcester, MA. http://marc.ucla.edu/workfiles/pdfs/MARC-mindfulness-research-summary.pdf
Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging research study stating that Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy improves frontal control in bipolar disorder: a pilot EEG Study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3305658/
Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala (2009) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3305658/
Study showing improvement in COPD outcomes (Mayo clinic) http://www.mayo.edu/research/discoverys-edge/mindfulness-new-approach-reduce-copd-hospitalizations