Posted in brain research, MBSR

Impact on brain regions related to mild cognitive impairment

Wells, R. E., et al., (2013). Meditation’s impact on default mode network & hippocampus in mild cognitive impairment: a pilot study. Neuroscience Letters. Abstract.


  • We conducted a randomized trial of meditation for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
  • Meditation may increase functional connectivity in the default mode network in MCI.
  • Mediation may reduce hippocampal volume atrophy in MCI.
  • Meditation may have a positive impact on brain regions most related to dementia.
  • Further research with larger sample sizes and longer-follow-up are needed.

Those with high baseline stress levels are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). While meditation may reduce stress and alter the hippocampus and default mode network (DMN), little is known about its impact in these populations.

Our objective was to conduct a “proof of concept” trial to determine whether Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) would improve DMN connectivity and reduce hippocampal atrophy among adults with MCI. 14 adults with MCI were randomized to MBSR vs. usual care and underwent resting state fMRI at baseline and follow-up. Seed based functional connectivity was applied using posterior cingulate cortex as seed.

The results showed that after the intervention, MBSR participants had increased functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and bilateral medial prefrontal cortex and left hippocampus compared to controls. In addition, MBSR participants had trends of less bilateral hippocampal volume atrophy than control participants.

These preliminary results indicate that in adults with MCI, MBSR may have a positive impact on the regions of the brain most related to MCI and AD. Further research with larger sample sizes and longer-follow-up are needed to further investigate the results from this pilot study.