June 10, 2010

Meditators have more brains

meditation, psychology, neuroplasticity, neurosciencePsychology Today reports on a study that indicates that meditators have more gray matter where it counts:

A study published in NeuroImage presents findings by a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of meditators. The researchers report having found differences between the scans, showing that certain brain areas of the long-term meditator group were larger than those of the non-meditating control group. Meditators displayed a significantly larger volume of hippocampal tissue, as well as a similarly increased volume of tissue in the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus. All of these areas are recognized as playing a role in emotional regulation.

In these areas, at least, size matters:

Eileen Luders, principal author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging stated, "We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and [to] engage in mindful behavior," adding, "The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue [as to] why meditators have these exceptional abilities."

I'm always interested to know what neuroscientists have to say about meditation, but if ever they discover that it also has negative side effects, it's not as if I'll stop meditating. One positive effect of all this study, though, is that meditation becomes ever more acceptable—and desirable—to the mainstream. That can't be a bad thing.

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Had Walmer's picture

For thirty years, I have lived with traumatic brain injury (tbi). I was 22 years old and midway through my college degree program. Returning to college I was in a motor vehicle accident, in a coma for six days. The future rarely goes exactly as we plan it. I came to with amnesia, double vision and tbi. I wasn’t who I used to be and now I know this as an invisible disability.

I struggled to complete my B.S. degree. Through the years I have struggled with abilities lost and changed: memory I couldn’t rely on and confusing speaking, regardless of my clear understanding. I had a puzzling loss of jobs, before discovering the undiagnosed condition and some possible coping strategies.

Faced with this great life challenge, I needed to upgrade the thinking of who I was, to adequately face this great challenge before me – disability and the question of how to find a way to participate and fully live a life I truly loved.

Tbi’s cognitive deficits can be known and lived with. The disability is what’s so - and you can learn to accept this as it is. I know that relationships and marriages often end after brain injury. However, I have now been married for 25 years and have three very successful children. I love my life and say that this is truly the result of this practice of mindfulness meditation for 22 years and the support of my amazing family.

Insight Meditation gives me deep calm, clear focused thinking and an ability to skillfully and patiently know emotions as they arise. I awake clear eyed, knowing honestly that obstacles will arise and I will have the capacity to face them, growing from whatever the encounter is. By accepting what is I wake up to the present moment and go on from there.

There is documented work of neurologists and psychologists that mindfulness practice leads to positive brain healing – it’s a skill to learn and an ongoing practice to adopt and grow with.

I offer training in mindfulness meditation and coaching with your personal situation to establish a flourishing long-term practice and the ability to have a life you love.

Had Walmer, PIMC Barking Dog Library
hwalmer@gmail.com http://www.portlandinsight.org/library

Ma's picture

When are we going to teach meditation in occidental schools?

Xandra's picture

I feel that my meditation in my life and service to Adi Da Samraj has profoundly changed me, so yes, I believe this. I know for sure that I am more stable as finding God, the Divine in Person, is a Gift that can not be forgotten, it informs the whole being at every level.

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Rebecca's picture

What would be really wonderful is if those changes could be passed on genetically.