Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meditation keeps your brain from wandering off

There has been much debate about whether mediation is in any kind useful. Some scientists argue its effects are similar to a placebo, and therefore do not acknowledge that it can induce any lasting changes in people's mindset. However, a new study reveals that in experienced meditators some brain parts are less active. According to the researchers, this might indicate that medication can increase happiness.
Brain changes
The differences found when comparing experienced meditators with those who do not meditate were mainly found in several areas of the prefrontal cortex, a part that is important in cognitive functions, including what we perceive as thinking. Experienced meditators showed less activity in these prefrontal cortex areas. The scientists also found changes in the connections between several brain parts, connected to a network that we use to monitor and control ourselves.

Impact on behaviour
The results show that meditation is correlated with changes in the default mode, which is described as the active brain state when a person is not focusing on the outside world, and the brain cells are in a state called 'wakeful rest'. According to the scientists, our thoughts often wander off in default mode. In experienced meditators, the default mode is less active, which in turn means our thoughts are less prone to wander off.

Experienced meditators may be better in focussing their thoughts because of decreased activity in the default network. The scientists note that this could increase happiness, as wandering thoughts are correlated with making us unhappy. Even though proper research needs to be done on how meditating correlates to feelings, it is clear that meditation does induce brain changes. That provides it with a scientific fundament. Once we learn more about how meditation affects our behaviour, we may even prescribe it as medication in certain psychological disorders, such as depression.

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