Brain and Body

How Meditation Changes the Brain

October 28, 2015 | Johannes Van Zijl

Photo credit: Scientific American/Youtube

Over the millennia, Ancient Tibetan monks have used meditation to find inner tranquility, and they're not the only culture to do so. Modern researchers have known for decades that meditation can improve someone’s physical and mental health by relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood.

In recent years, neuroscientists have taken a more serious look at the changes in brain structure underlying the benefits of meditation. Specifically they've focused their research on mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation challenges people to fix their attention on their senses in the current moment for a specific time period, normally for 10 – 20 minutes.

Several studies have confirmed that meditation increased the volume and density of the hippocampus, a brain region that is involved with regulating emotions. The hippocampus is also associated with long-term memory formation.

Scientist also found that expert meditators seem to develop a highly wrinkled cortex, the brain’s outer layer. Increasing the wrinkling in the cortex increases the overall surface area, resulting in higher brain connectivity in the region. We depend on the cortex for our abstract thoughts and higher thinking abilities. 

Meditation was also found to counteract attention-span difficulties, reduce anxiety, and slow down the brain’s normal ageing process.

There is mounting evidence that meditation brings about many positive changes in the brain, so it's time to start meditating.


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