Anxiety and depression

Major depression is associated with perturbations in social attachments, dysregulation of the HPA stress axis, and elevated levels of anxiety. For anxiety disorders, patients are often given supportive medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and diazepam (a minor tranquilizer).

DepressionHowever, the shift amongst some health consumers toward alternate healing methods for depression, such as mind-body medicine, reflects both a belief in their therapeutic promise and growing interest in self-applied health interventions that enhance quality of life (Little et al., 2009).

Prefrontal cortex (PFC) is very sensitive to the detrimental effects of stress exposure. Even quite mild acute uncontrollable stress can cause a rapid and dramatic loss of prefrontal cognitive abilities, and more prolonged stress exposure causes architectural changes in prefrontal dendrites (Cerqueira et al., 2008; Arnsten, 2009).

The PFC is involved in working memory, decision making, planning and behavioral flexibility, as well as in social interactions and emotional processing. PFC intelligently regulates these functions through extensive connections with other brain regions. Therefore, the malfunctioning of PFC induced by stress is highly relevant to mental and physical health (Arnsten, 2009).

It should be noted that PFC is activated by various types of mediation, such as mindfulness meditation (Farb et al., 2012), Tibetan Buddhist meditation (Baron Short et al., 2007), Zen meditation (Yu et al., 2011), and Yoga meditation (Froeliger et al., 2012).