New research involving brain scans and neuroplasticity backs up the multiple health benefits of meditation. But thousands of years ago experienced meditators were already aware of the benefits of mindfulness-based practices.
Neuroplasticity describes plastic changes in the brain that occur in response to experience. Through the experience of meditation, we can change our brain structure by acquiring new skills that involve the learning of "complex emotional and attention-focus regulatory strategies developed primarily for the cultivation of well-being, relaxation, and emotional balance."
15 years of research by Richard Davidson.
For 15 years, professor of psychology Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, developed a scientific relationship with the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, to investigate the effects of meditation. Professor Davidson's research compared inexperienced meditators to people with up to 54,000 hours of meditation experience. Both groups underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain during meditation. Among all experienced meditators, the MRI scan found greater activity in brain circuits involved in paying attention, especially the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is in charge of planning, concentration, and making good decisions.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Harvard.
During another study conducted by Harvard University, MRI of the brain of 16 participants were taken during two weeks before and after they took part in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. The results? Aside from a sense of peacefulness, physical relaxation, and cognitive and psychological benefits that persisted throughout the day, meditation increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
- Sara Lazar, Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. Eight Weeks to a Better Brain. The Harvard Gazette.
-To find out more about Dr. Davidson's work and research studies, go to his website, the Center for Healthy Minds https://centerhealthyminds.org/about/founder-richard-davidson