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. 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. Although no change was observed in a structure associated with self-awareness called the island, which had been identified in previous studies, the authors suggest that long-term meditation practice may be necessary to produce changes in that area. These regions are involved in learning, memory and emotional regulation, and the study authors interpreted the findings as evidence that meditation could, in a short period of time, improve both. So the first question was, well, maybe the people with the most gray matter in the study had more gray matter before they started meditating.
It will also help you commit to your meditation practice without creating too much pressure, which helps reduce stress levels, making meditation easier for beginners. We found that long-term meditators have a greater amount of gray matter in the island and sensory regions, auditory and sensory cortex. Based on currently available results, constant meditation reconfigures the brain by increasing the density of regions responsible for concentration, self-awareness, compassion and memory. If you're just starting out with meditation, there's no need to feel pressured to do it for hours every day.
But over time, we stopped struggling with these problems and began to look forward to our daily meditation. 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. But then I did a literature search of science and saw evidence that meditation had been associated with a decrease in stress, a decrease in depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and a higher quality of life. We took people who had never meditated before and put a group through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
Most bona fide meditation teachers say that while a few lucky novices experience benefits very quickly, for the rest of us, meditation must be practiced regularly over time before its beneficial effects can be appreciated. . .