Meditation holds the potential to help treat children suffering from traumas, difficult diagnoses or other stressors - a behavioral neuroscientist explains

  • In Health
  • 2022-09-08 12:32:01Z
  • By The Conversation
Meditation and mindfulness techiques are becoming increasingly common in school settings.
Meditation and mindfulness techiques are becoming increasingly common in school settings.  

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Children actively meditating experience lower activity in parts of the brain involved in rumination, mind-wandering and depression, our team found in the first brain-imaging study of young people under 18 years old. Over-activity in this collection of brain regions, known as the default mode network, is thought to be involved in the generation of negative self-directed thoughts - such as "I am such a failure" - that are prominent in mental disorders like depression.

In our study, we compared a simple form of distraction - counting backward from 10 - with two relatively simple forms of meditation: focused attention to the breath and mindful acceptance. Children in an MRI scanner had to use these techniques while watching distress-inducing video clips, such as a child receiving an injection.

We found that meditation techniques were more effective than distraction at quelling activity in that brain network. This reinforces research from our lab and others showing that meditation techniques and martial arts-based meditation programs are effective for reducing pain and stress in children with cancer or other chronic illnesses - and in their siblings - as well as in schoolchildren during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This study, led by medical student Aneesh Hehr, is important because meditation techniques such as focused attention on the breath or mindful acceptance are popular in school settings and are increasingly used to help children cope with stressful experiences. These might include exposures to trauma, medical treatments or even COVID-19-related stress.

Why it matters

Researchers know a lot about what is happening in the brain and body in adults while they meditate, but comparable data for children has been lacking. Understanding what is happening in children's brains when they meditate is important because the developing brain is wired differently from the adult brain.

These findings are also important because caregivers and health care providers often use distraction methods like iPads or toys to help children cope with pain and distress, such as medical procedures. However, those techniques may largely rely on the prefrontal cortex, which is underdeveloped in youth.

This means that stress and emotion regulation techniques that rely on the prefrontal cortex may work well for adults but are likely to be less accessible to children. Meditation techniques may not be dependent upon the prefrontal cortex and may therefore be more accessible and effective for helping children manage and cope with stress.

What's next

We still have a great deal to learn about how meditation affects brain development in children. This includes what types of meditation techniques are most effective, the ideal frequency and duration, and how it affects children differently.

Our study focused on a relatively small sample of 12 children with active cancer, as well as survivors who may have experienced significant distress over the diagnosis, treatment and uncertainty about the future. Future studies with larger sample sizes - including children with a wider diversity of diagnoses and exposures to early adversity or trauma - will help researchers like us to better understand how meditation affects the brain and body in children.

Our findings underscore the need to understand precisely how meditation techniques work. Exciting recent studies have begun to examine how participating in mindfulness and meditation-based programs can shape brain functioning in children.

Understanding how these techniques work is also essential for optimizing how they could be applied in health care settings, such as coping with needle-related procedures or for helping children manage the negative effects of stress and trauma.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Hilary A. Marusak, Wayne State University.

Read more:

  • How kids can benefit from mindfulness training

  • How to use a trip to the playground to help your children strengthen their memory

Hilary A. Marusak does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


More Related News

Gastonia Police plan to take children Christmas shopping
Gastonia Police plan to take children Christmas shopping
  • US
  • 2022-12-01 12:09:24Z

The Gastonia Police Foundation is seeking monetary donations for gift cards that will be given to children for holiday shopping, according to the police...

Can age verification stop children seeing pornography?
Can age verification stop children seeing pornography?

As part of the Online Safety Bill, all sites that publish pornography will have to age-check their users.

Immokalee mother headed to prison for children
Immokalee mother headed to prison for children's death in van driven by 14-year-old
  • US
  • 2022-11-29 18:05:58Z

Joyce Car Zamago told troopers that she started drinking hours before letting her 14-year-old drive her van. An ensuing crash killed two, ages 3, 4

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • cheap smm panel
    (2022-10-18 17:21:08Z)

    PEAKERR provides Best SMM Panels Services & Cheap SMM Panel Services In The World. For Youtube Views Panel, TikTok Services Panel, Facebook Services Panel, Instagram Services Panel, And Many More, We Are Providing All Services At Cheap Rates For Reseller SMM Panels. Resell Our SMM Services And Make Money Online. We Have Many Free SMM Panel Services & Give You Some Test Funds For Check Our Services Quality. We Always Try to Provide High-Quality Services At a Cheap Rate. Check:

    (2022-10-26 04:47:31Z)

    Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.

  • GP Clinic
    (2022-11-02 17:05:55Z)

    I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.

  • Curcumy
    (2022-11-13 16:27:39Z)

    Curcumy is a new product on the market that helps fight joint pain in the body. Through its advanced formula, it relieves joint pain, reduces swelling and inflammation, unlocks stiff joints, eliminates numbness and also increases mobility. The Curcumy formula has already been tested and approved and has been used by people who have the symptoms mentioned above

  • business network
    (2022-11-15 05:07:29Z)

    I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.


Top News: Health