Increase the Energy Metabolism of the Brain with Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“As a form of mental training, meditation improves core physical and psychological assets, including energy, motivation, and strength. Studies on the neurophysiological concomitants of meditation have proved that commitment to daily practice can bring promising changes for the mind and the body.” – Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury
Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with reducing the physical and psychological reactions to stress. There are a number of ways that meditation practices produce these benefits, including changes to the brain and physiology. The nervous system changes in response to how it is used and how it is stimulated in a process called neuroplasticity. Highly used areas grow in size, metabolism, and connectivity. Mindfulness practices in general are known to produce these kinds of changes in the structure and activity of the brain.
In today’s Research News article “Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7821578/ ) Gizewski and colleagues recruited healthy adult meditation naïve yoga students and provided them with 7 weeks of twice a week 45-minute training in Raja yoga meditation. This focused meditation training emphasizes the cessation of thinking and includes meditation and breathing exercises. They were measured before and after training for meditative depth, health history, lifestyle, anxiety, depression, and angst. Before and after training they also underwent brain scanning with structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and for brain energy metabolism (31P-MRS).
They found that in comparison to baseline after Raja yoga meditation training there were significant increases overall mental health and decreases in anxiety and dysthymia. There were also significant increases in brain energy metabolism particularly in the right hemisphere in the occipital and temporal lobes and the basal ganglia.
This study did not contain a comparison, control, condition which opens the results up to some alternative interpretations. But ignoring these possible contaminants, the study suggests that 7 weeks of meditation training can alter the brain. This has been demonstrated with numerous studies of changes in the structure, connectivity, and electrical activity of the brain produced by mindfulness training. The present study adds to this understanding by demonstrating the focused meditation training increases the energy metabolism in the brain particularly in the posterior cerebral cortex and the motor control areas. Meditation training is thought to be relaxing and the technique used here is one that emphasizes reduction in mental activity. But the present study suggests that the brain can get very active. This suggests that there is considerable mental activity going on during meditation.
So, increase the energy metabolism of the brain with meditation.
“Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. “True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self,” – Burke Lennihan,
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Gizewski, E. R., Steiger, R., Waibel, M., Pereverzyev, S., Sommer, P., Siedentopf, C., Grams, A. E., Lenhart, L., & Singewald, N. (2021). Short-term meditation training influences brain energy metabolism: A pilot study on 31 P MR spectroscopy. Brain and behavior, 11(1), e01914. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1914
Meditation is increasingly attracting interest among neuroimaging researchers for its relevance as a cognitive enhancement technique and several cross‐sectional studies have indicated cerebral changes. This longitudinal study applied a distinct and standardized meditative technique with a group of volunteers in a short‐term training program to analyze brain metabolic changes.
The effect of 7 weeks of meditation exercises (focused attention meditation, FAM) was assessed on 27 healthy volunteers. Changes in cerebral energy metabolism were investigated using 31P‐MR spectroscopy. Metabolite ratios were compared before (T1) and after training (T2). Additional questionnaire assessments were included.
The participants performed FAM daily. Depression and anxiety scores revealed a lower level of state anxiety at T2 compared to T1. From T1 to T2, energy metabolism ratios showed the following differences: PCr/ATP increased right occipitally; Pi/ATP decreased bilaterally in the basal ganglia and temporal lobe on the right; PCr/Pi increased in occipital lobe bilaterally, in the basal ganglia and in the temporal lobe on the right side. The pH decreased temporal on the left side and frontal in the right side. The observed changes in the temporal areas and basal ganglia may be interpreted as a higher energetic state, whereas the frontal and occipital areas showed changes that may be related to a down‐regulation in ATP turnover, energy state, and oxidative capacity.
The results of the current study indicate for the first time in a longitudinal study that even short‐term training in FAM may have considerable effects on brain energy state with different local energy management in specific brain regions. Especially higher energetic state in basal ganglia may represent altered function in their central role in complex cerebral distributed networks including frontal and temporal areas. Further studies including different forms of relaxation techniques should be performed for more specific and reliable insights.