Different Activity of the Brain is Associated with Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Backed by 1000’s of studies, meditation is the neuroscientific community’s most proven way to upgrade the human brain.” – EOC Institute
There has accumulated a large amount of research demonstrating that mindfulness has significant benefits for psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One way that mindfulness practices may produce these benefits is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/), Lardone and colleagues recruited healthy adult participants who had practiced Vipassana meditation for at least one year and participants who had never meditated. They recorded functional connectivity of brain regions with magnetoencephalography, a technique to record brain activity.
They found that in comparison to non-meditators, the meditators had increased activity in the Amygdala in the gamma frequency band (25-100 hz), the Hippocampus, the Caudate and the Cingulum in the Theta frequency band (4-8 hz), and the prefrontal cortex in the alpha frequency band (8-12 hz). Hence, there were significant differences in neural activity in the brains of meditators vs. non-meditators.
This study is correlative and causation cannot be determined. Meditation may cause these brain activity changes, or people with these kinds of brain activity are likely to engage in meditation, or some third factor may cause them both to covary. Nevertheless, it is clear that meditation practice is associated with different brain activity. This may be the physiological process that underlies some or all of the widespread psychological and physical benefits of meditation practice.
“Meditation provides experiences that the mind can achieve no other way, such as inner silence and expanded awareness. And as the mind gains experience, the brain shows physical activity as well—sometimes profound changes.” – Deepak Chopra
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Lardone, A., Liparoti, M., Sorrentino, P., Rucco, R., Jacini, F., Polverino, A., … Mandolesi, L. (2018). Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study. Neural plasticity, 2018, 5340717. doi:10.1155/2018/5340717
It has been suggested that the practice of meditation is associated to neuroplasticity phenomena, reducing age-related brain degeneration and improving cognitive functions. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the brain connectivity changes in meditators. In the present work, we aim to describe the possible long-term effects of meditation on the brain networks. To this aim, we used magnetoencephalography to study functional resting-state brain networks in Vipassana meditators. We observed topological modifications in the brain network in meditators compared to controls. More specifically, in the theta band, the meditators showed statistically significant (p corrected = 0.009) higher degree (a centrality index that represents the number of connections incident upon a given node) in the right hippocampus as compared to controls. Taking into account the role of the hippocampus in memory processes, and in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, meditation might have a potential role in a panel of preventive strategies.