Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“BDNF is a key neurotrophin that promotes development, survival and plasticity of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems.” – B. Rael Cahn
The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. These brain changes with mindfulness practice are important and need to be further investigates.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a key molecule circulating in the blood that promotes neural, neuronal survival and regeneration which produces neuroplasticity. There have been a number of studies performed on the ability of Mindfulness practices to affect the levels of BDNF found in the blood. It makes sense, then to review what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02209/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1437459_69_Psycho_20200922_arts_A ) Gomutbutra and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of mindfulness practices on the circulating levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). They identified 11 published randomized controlled trials.
They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness training either by meditation or yoga practice produced a significant increase in circulating levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Hence the published research suggests that meditation and yoga practice produce increased levels of BDNF in the blood. Since BDNF promotes neuroplasticity, this may be the mechanism by which mindfulness practices change the brain and thereby improve health and well-being. Of course, much more research is needed but this is a promising potential mechanism whereby mindfulness produces its benefits.
So, Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) with Mindfulness.
“mindfulness meditation and mind-body exercise (e.g. yoga and tai chi) increase circulating BDNF concentrations in healthy and diseased individuals.” – Tongjian You
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Gomutbutra P, Yingchankul N, Chattipakorn N, Chattipakorn S and Srisurapanont M (2020) The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. Front. Psychol. 11:2209. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02209
Background: This systematic review aims to answer three questions. First, how much do mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) affect peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)? Second, do mindfulness exercise–based interventions (exercise-MBIs) and mindfulness meditation–based interventions (meditation-MBIs) affect peripheral BDNF differently? Third, does the age of participants and the accumulative hours of MBI practice affect peripheral BDNF?
Methods: We included randomized controlled trials comparing MBI and no intervention in adults (age >18 years) who reported peripheral BDNF. Database searches included PubMed, CINAHL, CENTRAL, PsyInfo, and Scopus. Two reviewers independently selected the studies and assessed the trial quality. We used the standardized mean difference (SMD) as the effect size index and conducted moderator analyses.
Results: Eleven studies are included in this systematic review. Five studies applying exercise-MBI and three studies applying meditation-MBI are included in the meta-analysis (N = 479). The pooled effect size shows a significantly greater increase of peripheral BDNF in MBI groups compared to the control groups (k = 8, N = 479, SMD = 0.72, 95% CI 0.31–1.14, I2= 78%). Significantly more increases of BDNF in the MBI groups are found in both subgroups of exercise-MBI and meditation-MBI. The effect sizes of both subgroups are not significantly different between subgroups (χ2 = 0.02, p = 0.88). We find no significant correlation between the effect sizes and the age of participants (r = −0.0095, p = 0.45) or accumulative hours of MBI practice (r = 0.0021, p = 0.57).
Conclusion: The heterogeneous data of this small sample-size meta-analysis suggests that MBI can increase peripheral BDNF. Either exercise-MBI or meditation-MBI can increase peripheral BDNF.