Fri Nov 11,12:00 PM ET
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
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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