Meditation can help tame your emotions even if you’re not a mindful person, according to researchers at Michigan State University in the United States. Reporting in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, psychology researchers recorded the brain activity of people looking at disturbing pictures immediately after meditating for the first time. These participants were able to tame their negative emotions just as well as participants who were naturally mindful.

“Our findings not only demonstrate that meditation improves emotional health, but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful,” said lead study investigator Yanli Lin, a Michigan State University graduate student. “It just takes some practice.”

Mindfulness, a moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations, has gained worldwide popularity as a way to promote health and wellbeing. But what if someone isn’t naturally mindful? Can they become so simply by trying to make mindfulness a “state of mind”? Researchers assessed 68 participants for mindfulness using a scientifically validated survey. The participants were then randomly assigned to engage in an 18-minute audio-guided meditation or listen to a presentation of how to learn a new language, before viewing negative pictures (such as a bloody corpse) while their brain activity was recorded.

The participants who meditated had varying levels of natural mindfulness and showed similar levels of “emotion regulatory” brain activity as people with high levels of natural mindfulness. In addition, some of the participants were instructed to look at the gruesome photos “mindfully” (be in a mindful state of mind) while others received no such instruction. Interestingly, the people who viewed the photos “mindfully” showed no better ability to keep their negative emotions in check. This suggests that for non-meditators the emotional benefits of mindfulness might be better achieved through meditation rather than forcing a state of mindfulness, according to the researchers.


A new study by American researchers at Duke University in Durham in North Carolina is suggesting that it is a bit of toss up when comparing Botox to sacral neuromodulation (use of an implanted electrode for bladder control) in controlling episodes of refractory urgency urinary incontinence in women.

Urgency urinary incontinence is a sudden need to void resulting in uncontrollable urine loss. This disruptive condition is common and increases with age. Women with refractory (not responsive to treatment) urgency urinary incontinence are treated with onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) and sacral neuromodulation. This type of neurostimulation involves the implantation of a small electrode tip near the sacral nerve, which controls voiding function in the lower spine. The implanted device stimulates the nerve to act as a sort of pacemaker for the bladder.

Researchers at nine medical centres randomly assigned 192 women with refractory urgency urinary incontinence to an injection of Botox and 189 women to sacral neuromodulation. The mean age of the women was 63. The researchers found that the Botox group had a statistically significant greater reduction in six-month average number of episodes of urgency incontinence per day compared to the sacral neuromodulation group (-3.9 compared with -3.3 episodes per day). Women treated in the Botox group showed greater improvement in an overactive bladder questionnaire for symptom bother, treatment satisfaction and treatment endorsement compared to the sacral neuromodulation group. However, there was no significant difference for quality of life or for measures of treatment preference, convenience or adverse effects. The Botox group had an increase in the risk of urinary tract infections and need for self-catheterisations compared to the sacral neuromodulation group.


John Schieszer is an award-winning international journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at