Article

Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdale. Social Cognitive Affect Neuroscience, 5, 11-17

Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 5.88). 09/2009; 5(1):11-7. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsp034
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Stress has significant adverse effects on health and is a risk factor for many illnesses. Neurobiological studies have implicated the amygdala as a brain structure crucial in stress responses. Whereas hyperactive amygdala function is often observed during stress conditions, cross-sectional reports of differences in gray matter structure have been less consistent. We conducted a longitudinal MRI study to investigate the relationship between changes in perceived stress with changes in amygdala gray matter density following a stress-reduction intervention. Stressed but otherwise healthy individuals (N = 26) participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention. Perceived stress was rated on the perceived stress scale (PSS) and anatomical MR images were acquired pre- and post-intervention. PSS change was used as the predictive regressor for changes in gray matter density within the bilateral amygdalae. Following the intervention, participants reported significantly reduced perceived stress. Reductions in perceived stress correlated positively with decreases in right basolateral amygdala gray matter density. Whereas prior studies found gray matter modifications resulting from acquisition of abstract information, motor and language skills, this study demonstrates that neuroplastic changes are associated with improvements in a psychological state variable.

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    • "Of primary interest has been how these interventions change psychological states and the underlying neural activity. Participants in an MBSR course, for example, exhibited reductions in perceived stress, together with less gray matter density in the amygdala (Hölzel et al., 2009). MBSR participants have also demonstrated reduced neural reactivity to sadness , especially in cortical midline areas associated with self-referential processing, relative to a wait list control group (Farb et al., 2010). "
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