Change your brain
The benefits of meditation have been experienced by people for centuries but in recent decades science has turned its attention heavily toward investigating how meditation affects a human being. Science is only interested in what it can measure so many of the benefits of meditation will elude its scrutiny but there is still ample evidence emerging as to how regular meditation impacts the body and mind. The latest study to emerge has revealed that meditation practice coincides with structural changes in the brain that have an anti-ageing effect.
To discover this researchers compared active meditation practitioners with an average age of 52 to people who did not meditate but were of the same age and sex. The styles of meditation practised were predominantly Shamatha, Vipassana, and Zazen. The meditators had been meditating on a regular basis for between five and 46 years.
The researchers examined the brains of all the subjects using a type of brain imaging known as DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) which allows analysis of the connectivity within the brain.
The brain images showed that meditators had stronger connections between brain regions and showed less age-related loss of brain function. Importantly, these effects occurred throughout all brain areas including the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, corpus collosum (that connects the two halves of the brain), limbic system, and brain stem.
The most significant differences between meditators and non-meditators were in the nerves that connect the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord (cortico-spinal tract), the nerves that connect the front and back of the cerebellum (superior longitudinal fasciculus), and the nerves connecting the limbic system (emotions) to the frontal cortex (uncinate fasciculus).
In essence, meditation appears to slow down brain degeneration associated with ageing and also promote connectivity within the brain. The net effect of meditation on the brain then is anti-ageing. The researchers add that meditation could be a useful treatment for people with atrophy of the white matter in the brain or damage to the nerves.
It is likely that meditation causes changes on a micro-anantomical level leading to these results possibly via the immune system. It is also possible though, that people who choose meditation might have fundamentally different brains to begin with. That would be hard to analyse but in the meantime, adopting some daily meditation certainly wonâ€™t hurt and will probably do wonderful things.