Scientists have found that anxiety can be reduced by about 39% with the help of meditation. They have also successfully found the executive brain areas/functions involved in this relief from anxiety.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
“Although we’ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn’t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. “In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.”
In the present study, researchers worked with 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety. Participants were trained for the mindfulness meditation – a technique in which individuals were taught to concentrate on breath and body feelings and to non-judgmentally assess disturbing thoughts and emotions. Brain activity of the participants was examined used arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging.
After training, participants reported as much as 39% reduced anxiety ratings.
“This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Zeidan said.
The imaging studies showed that the activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain concerned with the executive-level function is involved in the anxiety relief from meditation.
“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”
Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., McHaffie, J., & Coghill, R. (2013). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience DOI: 10.1093/scan/nst041