Thursday, December 21, 2006
Meditative Arts are Definite Brain Boosters
Meditating does more than just feel good and calm you down, it makes you perform better – and alters the structure of your brain, researchers have found.
People who meditate say the practice restores their energy, and some claim they need less sleep as a result. Many studies have reported that the brain works differently during meditation – brainwave patterns change and neuronal firing patterns synchronise.
I was recently speaking with Patricia about my suggestions to Activate brain power. She asked if discipline had to be applied, and mentioned a friend who has meditated every day for over twenty years. While I'm sure there is some special benefit to such a long term health routine, I couldn't tell Patricia that this kind of dedication is necessary. The brain thrives on newness -- so if you have many different kinds of meditations, and play with them all, you may actually benefit the brain more than you would by instituting a strict regimen.
What effect meditating has on the structure of the brain has also been a matter of some debate. Now Sara Lazar at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US, and colleagues have used MRI to compare 15 meditators, with experience ranging from 1 to 30 years, and 15 non-meditators.
They found that meditating actually increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula.
“You are exercising it while you meditate, and it gets bigger,” she says. The finding is in line with studies showing that accomplished musicians, athletes and linguists all have thickening in relevant areas of the cortex. It is further evidence, says Lazar, that yogis “aren’t just sitting there doing nothing".
The growth of the cortex is not due to the growth of new neurons, she points out, but results from wider blood vessels, more supporting structures such as glia and astrocytes, and increased branching and connections.
Just remember to take a moment for yourself, and breathe, smile, and relax those shoulders.
Posted by Suzanna B. Stinnett at 9:41 PM