For generations, many people have been skeptical of meditation. They wonder if can actually do anything for you at all, and if it’s all just a bunch of guru-nonsense. Now that scientists are able to literally look into the human mind through the use of MRI – magnetic resonance imaging – machines, they are finally putting meditation techniques to the test, and the results thus far have been quite positive, indeed. It turns out meditation is not a bunch of smoke and mirrors, but rather a real practice that can yield real, long-term benefits.
Scientifically Studied Effects of Meditation on the Brain
Different Structure of the Default Brain Network
A study published in the March 2012 issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access, revealed that people experienced meditators have a different structure to their default brain network. The study examined the brains of 13 meditators with over 1,000 hours of practice and 11 beginners. It turned out the expert meditators had a different structure to their default brain network, which has to do with things like daydreaming when you are not doing anything. They found that these people were better at concentrating and better at thinking about themselves objectively.
Increased Grey Matter Density
A study published in the January 30, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes each day for eight weeks had increased grey matter density in the areas of their brains responsible for memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress management. While grey matter density is still not yet fully understood, these findings indicate that those with a higher density of grey matter in the affected regions of the brain may have greater mental strength in those areas.
Increased Attention Span
A 2007 study published in PLOS Biology reported that experienced meditators were better able to allocate their attention and concentrate for longer periods of time. The study examined 17 participants who had experience meditating. They then had the participants meditate rigorously for three months. At the end of the study, they found that expert meditators are better than others at keeping up with fast changing stimuli, like facial expressions that indicate a person’s emotions, because of their increased attention spans. This correlates with the March 2012 study that also saw improved concentration as a long-term benefit from regular meditation.
These three studies are proof that meditation can have real, positive, long-term effects on the brain, but they are only the beginning. As scientists continue to investigate the ways meditation can improve our minds, they will undoubtedly uncover a myriad of other benefits.
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