Mindfulness as an essential element of law school curriculum

George, S. (2015). The Cure for the Distracted Mind: Why Law Schools Should Teach Mindfulness. Duquesne University Law Review, 53, 14-23. Full text (click on Download This Paper).

Abstract. Building on scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation can improve attention, learning, working memory capacity, academic achievement, empathy, self-compassion, and creativity, and that it can reduce stress and anxiety, this article proposes that mindfulness should be an essential element in law school curriculum.

Part I discusses how distractedness has impacted attention and learning. Part II describes the last decade of research showing the cognitive and physical benefits of mindfulness. Part III discusses the critique of the traditional law school format and advocates that law schools should follow medicine and industry in using mindfulness training to address these issues.

Increases gray matter concentration

Hölzel, B.K., et al. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research, 191 (1), 36-43. Full text (unedited manuscript).

From the Abstract: Therapeutic interventions that incorporate training in mindfulness meditation have become increasingly popular, but to date little is known about neural mechanisms associated with these interventions. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one of the most widely used mindfulness training programs, has been reported to produce positive effects on psychological well-being and to ameliorate symptoms of a number of disorders.

Here, we report a controlled longitudinal study to investigate pre-post changes in brain gray matter concentration attributable to participation in an MBSR program. Anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images from 16 healthy, meditation-naïve participants were obtained before and after they underwent the 8-week program.

Changes in gray matter concentration were investigated using voxel-based morphometry, and compared with a waiting list control group of 17 individuals. Analyses in a priori regions of interest confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus. Whole brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR group compared with the controls.

The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.