The practice of meditation along with its potential health benefits has been the subject of much scientific study in recent years. Today we’ll talk about the effects of meditation on human brain development, as published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
This study, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), showed that long-term meditators had more gyrification (folds on the surface of the brain) than non-meditators. More gyrification of the brain is related to faster brain information processing, aids the formation of memories, and improves decision-making ability.
The gyrificaiton or cortical folding is the process by which the cerebral cortex (outer brain surface) changes over time, creating narrow furrows and folds called sulci and gyri. The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain, and plays a role in memory, attention, thought, and consciousness.
The UCLA study was conducted with 50 long-term meditators and 50 non-mediators; each group consisted of 28 men and 22 women. The researchers used magnetic resonance brain imaging to evaluate the effects of meditation. The meditators were, on average, 51 years old and all had practiced meditation for an average of 20 years (Shamatha, Vipassana, Zen among other meditation types).
According to Dr. Eileen Luders, study coordinator, there was a direct correlation between the amount of gyrification and the years of meditation practiced, which further supports the concept of brain neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to adapt and improve based on environmental changes.
The meditators had increased levels of gyrification in different regions of the brain, including a part called the “insula”. Luders notes that “The insula acts as a center for integrating autonomic, affective and cognitive processes. Yogis are known to be masters of insight and awareness, emotional control and self-regulation, so the results make sense that the more one has meditated, the higher the degree of bending in the insula”.
Previous studies have found that people who practiced meditation over many years had increased amounts of gray and white matter in the cerebral cortex. The gray matter is mainly composed of cell bodies of neurons, and its function is related to information processing, while the white matter contains a large amount of myelin, a lipid substance that helps conduct nerve impulses through the axons.
Now that you know about some of the benefits of meditation, you should consider starting the practice as a way to strengthen your brain. Meditation can be done in different places, at home, parks, specialized meditation centers; most any quiet place will work! Browse some meditation books next time you are at the mall!
The type of medical doctor who takes care of the brain is a neurologist, and if you want to consult one, visit our main site: www.procuramed.com.
A good start to the week everyone. Here are some other Mais Saúde articles related to the brain (in Portuguese):
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)