Meditation Associated With Increased Grey Matter in the Brain
Meditation is known to alter resting brain patterns, suggestinglong lasting brain changes, but a new study by researchers from Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and theMassachusetts Institute of Technology shows meditation also isassociated with increased cortical thickness.
The structural changes were found in areas of the brain that are important forsensory, cognitive and emotional processing, the researchers report in theNovember issue of NeuroReport.Although the study included only 20 participants, all with extensive training inBuddhist Insight meditation, the results are significant, said Jeremy Gray,assistant professor of psychology at Yale and co-author of the study led bySara Lazar, assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital."What is most fascinating to me is the suggestion that meditation practicecan change anyone's grey matter," Gray said. "The study participants werepeople with jobs and families. They just meditated on average 40 minuteseach day; you don't have to be a monk."Magnetic resonance imaging showed that regular practice of meditation isassociated with increased thickness in a subset of cortical regions related tosensory, auditory, visual and internal perception, such as heart rate orbreathing. The researchers also found that regular meditation practice mayslow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex."Most of the regions identified in this study were found in the righthemisphere," the researchers said. "The right hemisphere is essential forsustaining attention, which is a central practice of Insight meditation." They said other forms of yoga and meditation likely have a similar impact oncortical structure, although each tradition would be expected to have aslightly different pattern of cortical thickening based on the specific mentalexercises involved. ______________________________________________________________________________ Co-authors include Catherine Kerr, Rachel Wasserman Jeffery Dusek, HerbertBenson and Metta McGarvey, Harvard; Douglas Greve, Brian Quinn, BruceFischl, Michael Treadway and Scott Rauch, Massachusetts General Hospital,and Christopher Moore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.NeuroReport 16: 1893-1897 (November 28, 2005)
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by YaleUniversity.