Meditate on This: Buddhist Tradition Thickens Parts of the Brain
By LiveScience Staff
posted: 11 November 2005
Meditation alters brain patterns in ways that are likely permanent, scientists have known. But a new study shows key parts of the brain actually get thicker through the practice.Brain imaging of regular working folks who meditate regularly revealed increased thickness in cortical regions related to sensory, auditory and visual perception, as well as internal perception -- the automatic monitoring of heart rate or breathing, for example.
The study also indicates that regular meditation may slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex."What is most fascinating to me is the suggestion that meditation practice can change anyone's gray matter," said study team member Jeremy Gray, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale. "The study participants were people with jobs and families. They just meditated on average 40 minutes each day, you don't have to be a monk."
The research was led by Sara Lazar, assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. It is detailed in the November issue of the journal NeuroReport.The study involved a small number of people, just 20. All had extensive training in Buddhist Insight meditation. But the researchers say the results are significant.
Most of the brain regions identified to be changed through meditation were found in the right hemisphere, which is essential for sustaining attention. And attention is the focus of the meditation.Other forms of yoga and meditation likely have a similar impact on brain structure, the researchers speculate, but each tradition probably has a slightly different pattern of cortical thickening based on the specific mental exercises involved.
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Reply by bruce michaels on June 22, 2008 at 2:14pm (migrated from another page on this site)
It doesn't surprise me that meditation changes the physical brain. I am more interested in what long periods of daily meditation over months and years of regular meditation does for me. I do know there is a big difference as to the setting of my meditation. There have been times after a retreat that I could feel the full power of my mind. When I have meditations with a group at my house it is much different then meditation by my self. Meditating with another long term Buddhist he was able to tell me that I was actually a sleep at different times during my meditation. I see meditation as what it is referred to as a practice. Just being about to do it regular for me is an accomplishment.