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New Research Suggests that Meditation is Good for the Brain

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 4 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Meditation Research Stress Brain

It has been long known that meditation can help one to relax and so it therefore has always seemed to follow that meditation can also help on to use ones brain more effectively. Stress, which can accumulate easily in an industrialized society can also be easily alleviated through a variety of meditation techniques. Recent research shows that doing so actually changes the pattern of activity in the brain and thus helps the individual to perform better in their daily tasks.

Training the Brain for Relaxation Response

It has been found by scientists who have studied the brain responses of those who meditate regularly that not only do they cope better with stress during meditation, but also that their brains cope better with outside stress in general. The ‘relaxation response’ is a mode of calm thinking that allows for clearer thoughts to be made and those who meditate often seem to be able to tune in to this response relatively easily as this response is characterised by aspects such as steady and rhythmic breathing and a low pulse rate – things bought abut naturally during meditation exercise (for examples of meditation exercises please see related articles).

Although this is something vouched for over centuries by those who practice some form of spirituality, it is only now that Science is able to see the extent of the benefits that meditation offers to the human brain. It is even now thought that those who meditate regularly generally have a thicker outer cortex to their brain: The outer cortex is the part of the brain responsible for decision making and the processing of information. It is not yet known, however, if meditation is literally responsible for enhancing the structure of the brain, or whether it is the case that those who have a brain with a thicker outer cortex naturally have a propensity to choose to meditate!

Other recent studies have shown that meditation stimulates the area of the brain responsible for rational thought (the left pre-frontal cortex), thus leading us to make rational decisions even under pressure. This can be very helpful in a society where those parts of our brains designed to deal with primitive threats (such as attacks by wild animals, and so on) may become stimulated by similar but comparatively non-threatening situations, such as disagreements with your boss, and so on: Those who meditate can calm the part of the brain responsible for reacting to a challenge in an inappropriately aggressive way.

It has also been recently demonstrated that meditation helps people to apprehend changing detail in their daily lives: Whereas many people is rapidly changing events, as they hang on to what they initially grasp, those who meditate are more likely to be able to go with the flow and detect a series of changes – something vitally useful in the fast information technology age that we live in.

It seems that science is starting to acknowledge the very real benefits of meditation in a big way. In time this may lead to a huge move towards meditation being accepted as a commonplace activity essential to our health – no different from exercising regularly or eating properly. Those already aware of the benefits will be able to take great confidence in the fact that they have been acknowledged by people the than adherents to New Age Medicine and spiritual practice.

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