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UCLA Meditation study finds quicker & stronger brains with practice

Posted Mar 20 2012 7:41pm

A February 2012 UCLA meditation study on the brains of practicing meditators has found remarkable evidence that a regular meditation practice strengthens our brains.

Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. What provided the edge in this study is that there is a direct link between the increase of folding in your brain to the amount of years of practice you have. The article appears in the online edition of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and you may view the abstract by clicking here.

The gains were largely located in the outer-front part of our brain called the cerebral cortex which has the key role in functions of memory, attention, thought and awareness. The folds in your brain are like highways for information to be distributed to different areas the brain for processing – and it works the same way as our cities – increase the amount of highways (folds) and the information gets to where it needs to go quicker.

To the right you will find an image that shows the areas of the brain that have been found to be stronger and more developed when practicing meditation. Another exciting area that received growth was the central back part of the brain called the “insula” here too the UCLA meditation study found increased size of brain folds.

Meditators have always been known for there awareness and abilities for focus and contemplation, they also have been known for their emotional control and self-regulation. The fact that this is shown through MRI scans to actually be the case physically in the brain makes sense.

The researchers took MRI scans of 50 meditators, 28 men and 22 women, and compared them to 50 control subjects matched for age, handedness and sex. The meditators practiced regularly in different forms of meditation; Samatha, Vipassana, Zen and more.

Other authors of the UCLA meditation study included Florian Kurth, Emeran A. Mayer, Arthur W. Toga, and Katherine L. Narr, all of UCLA, and Christian Gaser, University of Jena, Germany. Funding was provided by several organizations, including the National Institutes of Health.

The study was held at the  Laboratory of Neuro-imaging at UCLA. For more information you can visit  http://www.neurology.ucla.edu/ .

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