While the exact interpretation of any particular brain change is always open to scientific debate, these results strongly suggest that just two months of meditation are enough to reconfigure the brain in a way that can encourage greater concentration, emotional control, and thoughtful decision-making. Studies on new meditators have observed measurable changes in the brain over two weeks of practice. After eight weeks of practice, gray matter in the hippocampus increases, indicating improved memory, concentration, and compassion. And the gray matter in the amygdala decreases, which indicates less stress and worry.
In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week (early edition), Yi-Yuan Tang, Michael Posner and colleagues randomly assigned University of Oregon college students with no meditation experience to participate in an integrative mind-body training (IBMT) meditation. relaxation program or program. In total, students completed 11 hours of training, divided into 30-minute sessions conducted over a period of one month. IBMT involves body relaxation, mental imaging and mindfulness training guided by a coach and an assistance CD.
This meditation method emphasizes restful alertness. The idea is to gain a high degree of awareness of your body and mind, so that unwanted thoughts are less likely to capture your attention and distract you. What the researchers discovered was that, after just 11 hours of meditation training, there were changes (for the better) in a white matter tract that connects the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to other structures of the brain. The ACC is part of a network of brain regions that participate in the regulation of our emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
In short, after meditation training, the integrity and efficiency of connections with the ACC, an important player in our ability to regulate our thoughts, behaviors and emotions, improved. Phil Jackson, coach of the LA Lakers, became known when he was training Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in several successive championships for advocating meditation practices as a means to improve the performance of his players. Successful people, from Goldman Sachs board members to Ford Motor Company President William Ford, have also touted the benefits of meditation practices in their daily and work lives. These powerful sports and business figures often use their intuition about the psychological benefits of their practice, but, as I just described, brain research now suggests that these intuitions are correct.
If you've recently started meditating, you may wonder when you should start experiencing changes. As part of the documentary “A Joyful Mind”, researchers analyzed experienced meditators, as well as research involving novice meditators. That said, not all meditation teachers would agree that the time it takes for meditation to change your brain is relevant. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an eight-week mindfulness training program, but that this experiential change corresponds to structural changes in the amygdala, a finding that opens the door to many possibilities for further research into the potential of MBSR to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Based on previous studies of their own and other groups of long-term meditators, the study authors say that meditation may eventually increase brain volume and neural density in some key areas, but, they add, these changes are likely to take much longer than eight weeks to occur. Previous studies have reported that MBSR, which involves 24-30 hours of meditation practice for two months, led to an increase in gray matter density, a measure of the amount of cortical gray matter in a given area, and the volume of gray matter, the total size of gray matter in various areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex and temporoparietal junction. Based on currently available results, constant meditation reconfigures the brain by increasing the density of regions responsible for concentration, self-awareness, compassion and memory. Remember that it will take you a while to master the art of meditation, so don't feel bad if it takes you a long time to experience all the benefits.
Although there is a guide, no one can tell you exactly when you will begin to notice the changes that come from your meditation practice. For many meditators, long-term emotional benefits include increased confidence, patience, and self-esteem. Analysis of the MRI images, which focused on areas where differences associated with meditation were observed in previous studies, found an increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, which is known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. The study also found that participants who meditated for eight weeks had more significant results than those who meditated for four weeks.