The Mindfulness Clinic Blog
Meditation as Prevention for Depression? - May 5, 2011
Meditation as Prevention for Depression?
Dr. Simon Young looks into how mindfulness meditation might alter brain chemical levels.
A recent article by Dr. Simon N. Young in The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience looked at whether Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) might have an effect on Serotonin levels, to see if meditation could be used to prevent depression in people who are at risk.
We know that the neurotransmitter Serotonin, a common chemical in the brain, is related to certain traits in people with depression (like rumination, negative thoughts, and controlling one’s mood). Since meditation also alters these traits, Young speculates that MBCT could have an effect on Serotonin, and that we could use this knowledge to help people before they ever even develop depression.
Young looks at the research that has been done on MBCT and its effects on the brain. Most of the research to date has looked at brain structure and function, and shows that areas of the brain related to attentional control, Dopamine release, and mood regulation are improved after an 8-week mindfulness course. These internal changes are in line with the fact that many people report feeling better after doing an MBCT course.
Young recommends an MBCT-based depression prevention study that measures Serotonin levels in participants. This could help us understand how meditation helps people feel better and aid in designing mindfulness-based prevention measures against depression. In other words, if we understand exactly why and how MBCT works, we can design programs for people who are at risk of becoming depressed and, hopefully, prevent it from ever happening.
It is clear that mindfulness can help people feel better once they have already become depressed; Young proposes that mindfulness might also be able to prevent depression in the first place. We look forward to future research in this area!