A Chinese-influenced meditation technique appears to help the brain regulate behavior after as little as 11 hours of practice, according to a study.
Researchers at the University of Oregon and Dalian University of Technology charted the effects of integrative body-mind training (IBMT), a technique adapted in the 1990s from traditional Chinese medicine and practiced by thousands in China.
The research to be published in the upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences involved 45 test subjects, about half of whom received IBMT, while a control group received relaxation training.
Imaging tests showed a greater number of connections in the anterior cingulate — the part of the brain which regulates emotion and behavior — among those who practiced meditation compared to subjects in the control group.
"The importance of our findings relates to the ability to make structural changes in a brain network related to self-regulation," said The University of Oregon's Michael Posner, a lead author on the study.
"The pathway that has the largest change due to IBMT is one that previously was shown to relate to individual differences in the person's ability to regulate conflict," he said.
Deficits in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex also have been associated with attention deficit disorder, dementia, depression, schizophrenia, and many other disorders.
And researchers said the experimental group also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue than students in the control group.
"We believe this new finding is of interest to the fields of education, health, and neuroscience, as well as for the general public," said Dalian University's Yi-Yuan Tang, who led the team of Chinese researchers.
IBMT emphasizes body-mind awareness using breathing techniques and mental imagery to achieve a state of "restful alertness."
Scientists hypothesized that the changes resulted from a reorganization of white-matter tracts or by an increase of myelin that surrounds the connections.
The researchers said the findings suggest that IBMT can be used as a vehicle for understanding how training influences brain plasticity.