Tuesday, March 20, 2012


www.latimes.com/health - The brains of experienced meditators appear to be fitter, more disciplined and more “on task” than do the brains of those trying out meditation for the first time. And the differences between the two groups are evident not only during meditation, when brain scans detect a pattern of better control over the wandering mind among experienced meditators, but when the mind is allowed to wander freely. Those insights emerge from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which looked at two groups: highly experienced meditators and meditation novices, and compared the operations of the “Default Mode Network” - a newly identified cluster of brain regions that go to work when our brains appear to be “offline.” “I think it’s safe to say this is brain-training at work,” says Yale University psychiatrist Judson Brewer, who conducted the study with psychologists from Yale, the University of Oregon and Columbia University. 

By the definition of the latest study, mental control was defined as the ability to keep two key nodes of the default mode network from becoming active during meditation. The posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex appear to be hubs of the brain’s “neutral” setting-areas that come alive when we are not engaged in a task that requires more specialized attention and let our minds wander.  Why would mental control over our daydreams make us more healthy? It turns out that having a well-functioning default mode network - one that lets us explore ourselves and our lives but doesn’t intrude into our efforts to concentrate when that’s what’s needed - is critical to mental health.  Those of us who daydream more often are more likely to be depressed - either because we get caught in a cycle of rumination or because depressed people have poorer concentration (which comes first isn’t clear).

From this study, more evidence emerges that meditation strengthens the brain. By comparing brain scans of experienced meditators' brains and brains of those who try to meditate for the first time, there emerges a pattern of greater control over the mind that wanders among experienced meditators. In addition, meditation not only helps the brain, this technique together with prayer are spiritual practices which allow us to reconnect with our own essence.

It is believed that the sages from the ancient time of the Indus-Saraswati civilization practiced both yoga and meditation. ... Modern medicine has endorsed the beneficial effects of many of these meditation techniques in countering the harmful effects of stress on the human system.  Many leading medical authorities now recognize that through the practice of meditation and yoga, one can regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital phenomenon, hitherto considered as beyond the influence of voluntary control. ... There are even reports of brain changes, as observed by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques, after meditation.  Scientists have discovered palpable thickening of some critical areas of the brain cortex in monks who perform meditation over prolonged periods.

Dr. Hiro Badlani:
“Hinduism - Path of the Ancient Wisdom”
Chapter 14 - “Consciousness: Cosmic Intelligence of the Divine”
Chapter 44 - “Meditation: The Spiritual Practice”

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