Interaction between neuroanatomical and psychological changes after mindfulness-based training

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 20;9(10):e108359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108359. eCollection 2014.


Several cross-sectional studies have documented neuroanatomical changes in individuals with a long history of meditation, while a few evidences are available about the interaction between neuroanatomical and psychological changes even during brief exposure to meditation. Here we analyzed several morphometric indexes at both cortical and subcortical brain level, as well as multiple psychological dimensions, before and after a brief -8 weeks- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training program, in a group of 23 meditation naïve-subjects compared to age-gender matched subjects. We found a significant cortical thickness increase in the right insula and the somatosensory cortex of MBSR trainees, coupled with a significant reduction of several psychological indices related to worry, state anxiety, depression and alexithymia. Most importantly, an interesting correlation between the increase in right insula thickness and the decrease in alexithymia levels during the MBSR training were observed. Moreover, a multivariate pattern classification approach allowed to identify a cluster of regions more responsive to MBSR training across subjects. Taken together, these findings documented the significant impact of a brief MBSR training on brain structures, as well as stressing the idea of MBSR as a valuable tool for alexithymia modulation, also originally providing a plausible neurobiological evidence of a major role of right insula into mediating the observed psychological changes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology
  • Mindfulness*
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Organ Size
  • Psychology*

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.