Using the mind to change the brain

The mechanism of neuroplasticity in a clinical context

Can we change our brains with emotional regulation? Case studies in ADHD, depression & anxiety reduction using mindfulness.

A talk by Dr Bruno Cayoun:

How your thoughts change your brain!
From the Mind and its Potential Conference, 2009

Psychologist and mindfulness meditation practitioner, Dr Bruno Cayoun, took us on a fascinating exploration at Mind & Its Potential 2009 of how our our thoughts can change our brains – and the important implications in a clinical setting for children and adults with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety disorders, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Over the years there has been a lot of press about ADHD especially in children and debate about diagnosis and whether or not to medicate young children. How wonderful to hear about the effectiveness of a simple technique used in a clinical setting that doesn’t require drugs and has no harmful side effects – mindfulness meditation. Scientific studies of long term practitioners of mindfulness meditation, conducted by Harvard University’s Dr Sara Lazar, have found that the thickness of the frontal cortex has increased over time – an area that is deficient in those with ADHD. The technique can also assist in increasing sustained attention, cognitive flexibility and the inhibitory functions of the brain – all affected adversely by ADHD. Dr Cayoun has used a specific technique – mindfulness of breathing – with good effect in both children and adults. The breath is often used as the focus of attention in mindfulness training as it has the benefit of always being with us and is easy to follow when linked to the sensitive area of the upper lip. Part of the training also involves regular scanning for bodily sensations and for thoughts and emotions arising in the mind. As Dr Cayoun points out, if we can teach the brain to be more aware of bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions then we’ll be better able to let go of thoughts and emotions that disturb us and better able to control our behavioural repsonses. Now that sounds like something we could all do with more of!