Mindfulness based intervention in Parkinson's disease leads to structural brain changes on MRI: a randomized controlled longitudinal trial

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2013 Dec;115(12):2419-25. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Objective: The aim of the current study is to investigate structural changes on brain MRI using voxel based morphometry (VBM) related to an eight-week mindfulness based intervention (MBI) in Parkinson's Disease (PD).

Methods: A total of 27 out of 30 PD patients completed a randomized controlled longitudinal trial. Fourteen patients participated in a structured eight-week program of MBI. Thirteen patients received usual care (UC) alone. MRI data sets of the brain were obtained at baseline and after eight weeks follow-up. VBM analysis was performed using DARTEL from the SPM8 software. The resulting difference maps were statistically compared to examine gray matter density (GMD) differences. Results were reported at p<0.001, uncorrected for multiple comparisons.

Results: Increased GMD was found in the MBI compared to the UC group in the region of interest (ROI) analysis in the right amygdala, and bilaterally in the hippocampus. Whole brain analysis showed increased GMD in the left and right caudate nucleus, the left occipital lobe at the lingual gyrus and cuneus, the left thalamus, and bilaterally in the temporo-parietal junction. In contrast, GMD differences were found in the UC group in the left anterior lobe and dentate nucleus of the cerebellum.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge this is the first quantitative analysis of neurobiological effects of MBI in PD. Increased GMD was found in the MBI group in the neural networks that have been postulated to play an important role in PD. These areas have also been implicated in the functional networks mediating the benefits of meditation.

Keywords: Gray matter density; Magnetic resonance imaging; Mindfulness based intervention; Mindfulness based stress reduction; Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amygdala / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Watchful Waiting*