After a week long retreat, the reward and emotional systems of the participants brains were activated, a study shows.
The effects of meditation
In an experiment conducted by researchers from Thomas Jefferson University, fourteen Christian participants – ranging in age from 24 to 76 – attended an Ignatian retreat for a week. The participants spent most of the day in silent contemplation, prayer and reflection and attended a daily meeting with a spiritual director for guidance and insights.
Afterwards, post-retreat scans revealed decreases in dopamine transporter (5-8 percent) and serotonin transporter (6.5 percent) binding, which could make more of the neurotransmitters available to the brain.
“Since serotonin and dopamine are part of the reward and emotional systems of the brain, it helps us understand why these practices result in powerful, positive emotional experiences,” said Andrew Newberg, M.D., Director of Research in the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health. “Our study showed significant changes in dopamine and serotonin transporters after the seven-day retreat, which could help prime participants for the spiritual experiences that they reported.”