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Brief history overview

Definition and types of meditation
Benefits of meditation
Neuroplasticity of the brain
Studies that show the changes in
thickness, volume , and concentration of
brain areas associated with meditation
Brain waves
 alpha waves synchrony associated with
meditation and the implications of findings.

1920 1960 1977
practice of
has been
the human
to the
world . The
of scientific
n of
beliefs and
a drastic

scientific studies
started focusing
on the clinical
effects of
meditation on
health. With the
advancement in
scientific study of
effects of
practices became

the American Psychological
Association issued a
statement on meditation
stating that-“meditation may
facilitate the
psychotherapeutic process.”
and encouraged research
“to evaluate its possible
usefulness” Professors
started viewing meditation as
a valuable tool for stress
reduction and for
healing both mental and
physical disorders.

The physical act of meditation generally
consists of simply sitting quietly, focusing
on one's breath, a word or phrase.
The word meditation means to “engage in
contemplation or reflection” . It comes from
the same Greek and Latin root as the word

 Meditation is described as an experience of a state of
“thoughtless awareness” or mental silence.
 From a cognitive and psychological perspective,
meditation is described as a family of self –regulation
practices that aim to bring mental processes under
voluntary control through focusing attention and
 Other major descriptions of meditation emphasize
components such as relaxation, concentration, an altered
state of awareness, and maintenance of self-observing

Presently many meditation techniques are
being practiced. However, all of them can be
grouped into two basic approaches:

 concentrative meditations : focus on some
sound, or sensation to still the mind and
achieve greater awareness
 mindfulness/insight meditations: involves
becoming more alert to the continuous
passing stream of thoughts, images,
emotions and sensations without identifying
oneself with them.
 Even though meditation is a mental activity, studies show that it has
many physiological and psychological effects:

 It decreases heart rate and lowers blood pressure.

 It increases alpha activity in the brain which leads to a deep relaxed
state of the mind.

 It is effective in pain management and enhancing immune system

 It is beneficial in treating hypertension ; cardiovascular disorders ;
respiratory disorders such as asthma ; dermatological problems such
as allergies ,immunological disorders and treatment-related
symptoms of breast cancer .

 It is also effective in cases of anxiety , psychosomatic
disorders , neurotic disorders and stress .

 Studies suggest that intervention program using meditation is
helpful in reducing headache as well as pain in neck and joints

 Decline in the use of tranquilizers has also been reported
after meditation practices .

 Various studies also reported the benefits of TM meditation in
de-addiction from chemical substances , and smoking

 It reduces stress and increases reported levels of happiness,
and self-confidence.

How can meditation lead to this ?

Is there a placebo effect ?

can we choose how our mind works thus
choose who we will be ?

A study has demonstrated that learning to
juggle is associated with increases in
visual motion cortical areas.
The effect of meditation is based on the
plasticity of the brain. Sustained efforts to
focus attention and to cultivate emotional
balance leave traces in underlying neural
substrate(series of structural units to
support nervous system functions) and
Over time, these changes in brain
structure in turn support the intended
changes in mental faculties and
In 2005 Lazar and colleagues published a
study which suggests that meditation may
be associated with structural changes in
areas of the brain that are important for
sensory, cognitive, and emotional
processing. The data also suggest that
meditation may impact age-related decline
in cortical structure.
 Hypothesis : mindful meditation should result in
significant changes in the cortical structure in
regions that are routinely engaged during this
mental exercise.

 since mindful meditation practice involves
attention to internal and external sensory stimuli,
the hypothesis was that differences in cortical
thickness would be found in brain regions involved
in attention and sensory processing, showing
evidence of cortical plasticity.

 Results indicated that regular practice of
meditation is associated with increased
thickness in cortical regions related
introception and awareness of bodily
The insula is located within the cerebral

The insula plays a key role in a wide range of
brain processes, from awareness of bodily
feelings and pain to motivation, emotion, and
cognitive control.

 2-Brodmann area 10 is the anterior-most portion of
the prefrontal cortex in the human brain .It is described as one
of the least well understood regions of the human brain.It has
been shown to be involved in the integration of emotion and
 By becoming increasingly more aware of sensory stimuli
during formal practice,the meditation practitioner may
gradually be able to use this self-awareness to more
successfully navigate through potentially stressful encounters
that arise thoughout the day.
 3- Somatosensory cortex :It is responsible for sensory
experiences .
 4-Auditory cortex: it is involved in the analysis of complex
auditory signals .

The study also shows that regular meditation
may slow age-related thinning of the
prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for
planning complex cognitive behaviors .
 Despite the effects of aging on the prefrontal
cortex ,in one focal region of BA 9/10 the
average cortical thickness of the 40-50 –year
–old meditation participants was similar to the
average thickness of the 20-30 year-old
meditators and controls .
Pain sensitivity is reduced in participants with
greater cortical thickness.
 A study by Pagnoni and Cekic in 2007 shows that
total GM volume was negatively correlated with
age whereas in the meditation group virtually no
correlation was present, especially in the left
 The study also shows that speed of responses
decreased significantly with age in the control
group but not in the meditation group.
 According to the authors, this effect could be
related to the differences in the left putamen ,a
region involved in attention processing and
cognitive flexibility.
A third study by Holzel et al. in 2008
shows that meditators have significantely
higher concentration of GM in the right
anterior insula, the right hippocampus ,
and orbitofrontal cortex .

Higher levels of stress are known to
impair neuronal growth in this brain area.
As part of the limbic system , the
hippocampus plays an important role in the
appraisal of situations and emotional
reactivity . The increase in GM in this
region could reflect and enhance ability to
reduce autonomic arousal level and to
maintain a state of inner peace in stressful
This region has been associated with the
modification of responses to aversive
stimuli , which is an integral part of
emotional regulation training during
meditation, namely the maintenance of
equanimity when confronted with painful
 A recent study by Luders et al. in 2009
showes that meditators have significantly
more GM volume in :
 left inferior temporal gyrus which is
involved in pleasure ,connectedness.
Right thalamus which is involved in
focusing of attention

Structure /Meditation training Mental faculty
Right anterior insula (awareness of
breathing sensations and body scan)
Interoception , awareness of bodily
cortex(equanimity,inhibition of
automatic responding)
Emotion regulation, modifying
reactions to aversive stimuli
Right hippocampus (relaxation while
staying vigilant and observing
thoughts and emotions)
Regulation of arousal
Left inferior temporal gyrus(awareness
of present moment)
pleasure , connectedness
Right thalamus (attend to a chosen
meditation object)
Focusing of attention
Left putamen(awareness of present
moment and keeping static body
Sustained attention
The brain cells communicate with each
other through electrical impulses .
These waves are measured in cycles per
seconds and have different frequencies.
There are 3 states of arousal : action ,
relaxation or rest , sleep.

Beta:Beta The Waking And Reasoning
Beta brain waves are associated with
normal waking consciousness and a
heightened state of alertness, logic and
critical reasoning.
While Beta brain waves are important for
effective functioning throughout the day,
they also can lead to stress, anxiety and
fear .

Alpha :Alpha brain waves are present in
relaxation .
Theta occurs during light sleep . It is only
experienced momentarily as you drift off to
sleep from Alpha and wake from deep
sleep (from Delta).
Delta :The Delta frequency is the slowest
of the frequencies and is experienced in
deep, dreamless sleep .

A research that aims at investigating the
effects of transcendental meditation
technique on magnetencephalography,
(EEG )alpha phase synchrony shows that
the practice of TM produces an increase in
alpha phase synchrony primarily between
anterior and posterior regions.

A-P Alpha connections are important for
cognitive integration .Increased synchrony
in the alpha frequencies has been found
during cognitive and creative tasks .

The A-P areas and EEG frequencies
enlivened in TM are the same areas that
break down in mild Alzheimer’s.
In a newly published neurophysiological
review, scientists randomized subjects to
eight weeks of mindfulness training versus a
control group.
In EEG, they asked members of each group
to focus attention on sensations in their hand
and then to switch their attention to their foot.
The people trained in mindfulness displayed
quicker and larger changes in alpha wave
amplitude in their brain’s hand map when they
made the attentional shift than the controls
This study suggests that mindfulness
practitioners gain enhanced control over
sensory cortical alpha waves that help
regulate how the brain processes and
filters sensations, including pain, and
memories such as depressive cognitions.
Studies are revealing the mechanisms that
facilitate the benefits ascribed to
meditation practices . Other studies are
being conducted .For Example :Cortisol
level change with meditation

Meditation is not only a technique, but also
an art. Some people are predisposed
towards it while others are not.

Some claim that meditation may have
therapeutic value, but limited to those who
are psychologically healthy, well integrated
and may have mild neurosis or
psychosomatic disorders. These issues
need serious attention from researchers in
future to get firm conclusion regarding the
efficacy of meditation as an adjunct to
mind-body therapy.
 Atkinson &Hilgard’s , Introduction to Psychology.
 Herbert R. et al(2005 ) Enhanced EEG alpha time-domain
phase synchrony during Transcendental Meditation
:Implications for cortical integration theory.
 Hussain D., Bhushan B.(2010) Psychology of Meditation
and Health: Present Status and Future Directions.
International Journal of Psychology and Psychological
Therapy 10, 3, pp. 439-451
 Lazar et al (2005) Meditation experience is associated with
increased cortical thickness
 Orenstein D.(2013)A neural basis for benefits of
 Ott U,Holzer B.&Vaitl D. Brain Structure and Meditation .
 Wager T.,Barrett L.(2004) From affect to control: Functional
specialization of the insula in motivation and Regulation