How meditation changes the brain?

Meditation has been shown to thicken the prefrontal cortex. This brain center manages higher-order brain function, such as increased awareness, concentration, and decision-making. Changes in the brain show that, with meditation, higher-order functions become stronger, while lower-order brain activities decrease.


has been linked to large amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain.

At first I didn't know what this meant, but it turns out it's very good. More gray matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer lasting emotional stability, and greater concentration during daily life. Through meditation, you're essentially turning off your sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic branch, Rhoads says. Initial studies have found that, over time, this practice can help reduce pain, depression, stress and anxiety.

These are focused attention or mindful meditation, which is where you focus on a specific thing, it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body, or a particular object outside of you. The goal of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and to continually bring attention back to that focal point as you wander. This suggests that the effects of meditation “can result in lasting changes in mental function, as the authors wrote. 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 neuron density in some key areas, but, they add, these changes are likely to take much longer than eight weeks to occur.

In addition, while the language of duties and obligations suggests a prescriptive or proselytizing attitude, the Buddhist tradition has generally been more interested in inviting people to try meditation and discover its benefits for themselves, rather than demanding adherence. Participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years had more gray matter volume throughout their brains, although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it was not as pronounced as non-meditators. Participants were able to focus their attention and reduce their emotional reactions to these images, even when they were not in a meditative state. Some researchers have warned that meditation can cause adverse effects under certain circumstances (known as the “dark night phenomenon”), but for most people, especially if you have a good teacher, meditation is beneficial rather than harmful.

Invented by a former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, this is a meditation aimed at busy people like you and me. Another study found that people who receive that same miserable amount of meditation training are approximately three times more likely than non-meditators to give up their chair when they see someone with crutches and in pain. A growing number of studies have shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. Combining formal meditation with other contemplative practices, the course is now being taught worldwide.

Online meditation courses and groups are popping up everywhere: in schools, communities, senior centers, and beyond. A study found that people made charitable donations at a higher rate after being trained in meditation for just two weeks.

Marissa Anwar
Marissa Anwar

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