Meditation is not a new practice but recently studies have shown that there is more to meditation than just relaxation. Meditation can actually cause important areas of your brain to change. According to the Washington Post, neuroscientist Sara Lazar took on the task of testing people to see how meditation affected the brain. Even she was surprised.
The first test subjects were those who had meditated for years vs those who had not meditated before. Following that test, the subjects who had not meditated were examined and enrolled in guided meditation sessions and their brains were closely examined. The meditation course lasted for eight weeks and the participants were examined again.
It was quickly noticed that the gray matter in the frontal cortex had enlarged. Frontal gray matter is associated with executive thought processes and working memory. It was also noted that the participants who were 50 years old, prior to the meditation, showed the cortex shrinking, which is normal for the age. After the eight week session, the same participants had seen growth in the pre-frontal cortex and the size compared to that of a 25 year old.
Overall, there were positive changes in five areas of the brain, including the amygdala, which controls a person’s anxiety and ability to handle stress. The left hippocampus was seen to have thickened, increasing a person’s ability to learn, remember and stabilize emotions.
Alexei Beltyukov says that meditation can help the entire body through relaxation and stress reduction, but through this study, it shows that meditation can also improve overall brain function.