We can all play a very active role in altering our brain structure to improve our overall well-being and quality of life.
Following a study conducted by a Harvard affiliated team, Sara Lazar of the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program (and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology) stated that meditation practitioners aren’t just feeling better. “They are literally undergoing changes in brain structure that create the associated sustained boosts in positive and relaxed feelings.”
An 8 week program of mindfulness meditation produced MRI scans that showed for the first time clear evidence that meditation produces ‘massive changes’ in brain gray matter. Previous studies by Lazar’s group had found structural differences in the brains of meditation practitioners compared to those with no prior experience most notably in the thickening of the cerebral cortex; the area responsible for attention and emotional integration.
Their subsequent study found that an average of 27 minutes of a daily practice of mindfulness exercises stimulated a significant boost in gray matter density, specifically in the hippocampus; the area of the brain in which self-awareness, compassion, and introspection are associated. Furthermore, this boost of gray matter density in the hippocampus was also directly correlates to a decreased gray matter density in the amygdala; an area of the brain known to be instrumental in regulating anxiety and stress responses. In stark contrast, the control group did not have any changes occur in either region of the brain thus ruling out merely the passage of time as a factor of influence regarding the drastic change in gray matter density fluctuations.
Reference: Harvard Gazette
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