Left and right amygdala in brainsource: Harvard Gazette

A recent Harvard-affiliated team of neuro-researchers have been able to document with MRI scans how meditation causes massive changes to gray matter in different areas of the brain. Most notably, after an eight-week program practicing an average of 27 minutes of mindfulness exercises each day, study participants showed an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus – responsible for memory and learning – as well as structures related to self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Participants also reported reductions in stress correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, the “flight or fight” center of the brain.

Amishi Jha, a University of Miami neuroscientist who researches meditation’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an eight-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”

These findings shed light on why Ashok Gupta and Annie Hopper include meditation as part of their brain retraining programs for limbic system impairment disorders such as chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. While meditation is not the core exercise for the programs, the reduction of gray-matter density in the amygdala can help to reduce the stress and anxiety often seen in these illnesses and normalize the amygdala function.


  • Earthwalker is the username that PT founder Julie Genser created for her online interactions so many years ago when first creating Planet Thrive.

    Julie's (Earthwalker's) life was derailed over twenty years ago when she had a very large organic mercury exposure after she naively used a mouth thermometer to measure the temperature of just-boiled milk while making her very first pizza at home. The mercury instantly expanded into a gas form and exploded out the back of the thermometer right into her face. Unaware that mercury was the third most neurotoxic element on Earth, Julie had no idea she had just received a very high dose of a poisonous substance.

    A series of subsequent toxic exposures over the next few years -- to smoke from two fires (including 9/11), toxic mold, lyme disease, and chemical injuries -- caused catastrophic damage to her health. While figuring out how to survive day-to-day, and often minute-to-minute, she created Planet Thrive to help others avoid some of the misdiagnoses and struggles she had experienced.

    She has clawed her way over many health mountains to get to where she is today. She is excited to bring the latest iteration of Planet Thrive to the chronic illness community.

    In 2019, Julie published her very first cookbook e-book called Low Lectin Lunches (+ Dinners, Too!) after discovering how a low lectin, gluten free diet was helping manage her chronic fascia/muscle pain.

1 Comment

  1. onvel

    Great article. I use Zenify mobile app to keep myself mindful. It’s a new app that trains mindfulness and self-awareness through alerts with short meditative assignments zenifyapp.com

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