Mindfulness: How Meditation Can Rebuild Gray Brain Matter

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As science advances, we understand some aspects of life that were often believed only myths of gurus or monks. Now we know how to reconstruct the gray matter of our brains naturally.

Many may think that it is a placebo effect, but in reality, yoga and meditation are two ways to combat and reduce stress, its benefits relaxation and gives a sense of tranquility, in addition to providing benefits at a cognitive and psychological level.

Meditation: Scientifically Validated Benefits

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduces symptoms associated with:
  • Depression 
  • Pain
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Insomnia

On the other hand, there are studies that show that, in effect, meditation improves the ability to pay attention and above all – and something to emphasize – all studies show that people are happier. In this sense, people report better quality of life, therefore, they are more satisfied.

How Neuroscience Can Demonstrate These Facets of Meditation?

According to Sara W Lazar Ph.D. an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, by repeating a behavior over and over again, this can lead to changes in the brain and this is what “neuroplasticity” is referred to. This refers to the fact that the brain is “plastic” and can change the way neurons communicate, with experience.

“There are some studies that show that this can be detected using MRI-like machines”, says Lazar. “The first study was about juggling. People who had never juggled were taken, scanned and subsequently taught to juggle. They were recommended to do so for 3 months. After this period, they were scanned again, and thanks to the IMR machine, changes in the gray matter of the brain of these people were detected, in important areas to detect visual movement”, adds the researcher.

In a second study, a group of regular people who practiced meditation for 30 or 40 minutes a day met. They were put on the scanner and compared to a demographically related group of people, but the latter did not meditate. The result, in effect, was that the brain of the ones that meditate had more gray matter than in the control group. One of these regions is located in the front part of the brain, important for functional memory and executes decision making.

It could also be seen that, according to age, the brain through its entire cortex is reduced as we age. It is one of the reasons why we begin to forget some things while we grow old.

In the case study, people in their 50s who meditated regularly had the same amount of brain bark as those in 25, suggesting that meditating can prevent or delay the natural deterioration associated with age in the cortical structure.

According to some researchers, these results could be relative and linked or other factors such as lifestyle or diet. Following this, another study was conducted in which a group of people who had never meditated before met. They were scanned and recommended to meditate for 30 or 40 minutes a day for 8 weeks and scanned again.

Magnetic resonances showed that several areas of the brain increased their mass, for example:

  • Left hippocampus: Important area for learning and memory; and for the regulation of emotions (People with disorders or depression had a less gray matter in this region).
  • Temporoparietal junction: It is located above the ear and is important for empathy, perspective and compassion.
  • Amygdala: Emotional part of the brain. In this case, a decrease in gray matter was found. The important thing at this point is that gray matter is related to the change in stress. The fewer stress people reported, the smaller the size of the amygdala. All this shows that the reduction of the amygdala does not respond to changes in the environment, but represents a change in people’s reaction or relationship with the environment.

Conclusion

With the practice of meditation, a person not only feels “better“, or was a placebo response, but there is actually a neurobiological reason to feel less stressed.

Maybe even serve to be more attentive and have more serenity when betting on next week’s future odds for SuperBowl or taking any other decisions.

Then, meditation can really change the brains of practitioners! You’ve tried?