Yale University reports mediation improves brain function

One of the most prestigious universities in America has released the much anticipated results of a study that examined the brains of 10
experienced meditators.

The new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the brain function of people who meditate is different from non-meditators, differences it was concluded could change the way a mediator deals with mental disorders and the extent to which they are affected by them.

10 meditators had FMRI brain scans which examines the brain in response to stimuli or tasks, in this case, the researchers were looking at the parts of the brain that were activated during three fundamental meditation techniques; concentration or focus, loving-kindness meditation and choice-less awareness additionally, the participants brain activity was recorded when they were asked to think of nothing.

In comparison to 13 non-meditators, there was less activity in an area of the brain that is usually active when the mind is ‘wandering’ known as the default mode network. This area of the brain was also less active when the participant wasn’t meditating.

There are a number of implications of the study that sheds light on the psychological malfunctioning seen in the brains of people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and schizophrenia . These disorders are characterised by a wandering mind and constant deliberation over negative thoughts without any awareness of such happenings.

The meditators brains showed that when they were told not to think of anything their brains were active in regions known to be involved in cognitive control and self-monitoring suggesting that if people with psychiatric disorders learned to meditate they could develop an awareness of their wandering mind and learn to focus and concentrate on the present.

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