Subjects: Behavioral health
UCLA scientists are reporting that certain regions in the brains of longtime meditators are bigger than those who do not engage regularly in the practice.
Eileen Luders and colleagues used high resolution, 3-dimensional MRI to study 22 people that had practiced either Samatha, Vipassana or Zazen meditation for between 5 and 46 years (average 24 years) and 22 controls. Most meditated between 10-90 minutes per day.
They found that the meditators had larger cerebral measurements in the right hippocampus and more gray matter in the right thalamus, the right orbito-frontal cortex and the left inferior temporal lobe. These regions are known to be involved with the regulation of emotions.
In no region did control subjects have larger brain volumes or more gray matter than the meditators.
The study is in Neuroimage.
“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior,” Luders told BurrillReport. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”
Scientists had previously shown that meditators have better concentration skills and emotional control, reduced stress levels and jacked immune systems, but this is the first study of the link between meditation and brain morphology.
According to Luders, the group’s findings might represent the “neuronal underpinnings” through which meditators “regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.”
She adds however, that her imaging techniques were unable to assess any possible microscopic correlates of the phenomenon, such as increased neuron counts, larger neurons or more neuronal connections.