According To This Harvard Study, Meditation Will Rebuild Your Brain’s Grey Matter In Only 8 Weeks
You’ve no doubt heard that meditation is a wonderful thing (especially if you follow this blog!).
In fact, meditation has become so interesting that major research projects are being created all over the world to study its effects.
This recent study is especially fascinating!
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A Harvard-affiliated team out of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) came across surprising conclusions regarding the tangible effects of meditation on brain structure.
An 8 week program of mindfulness meditation produced MRI scans for the first time, showing clear evidence that meditation produces “massive changes” in gray matter (the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord associated with higher thinking).
Senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program stated that meditation practitioners aren’t just feeling better; they’re literally undergoing changes in brain structure.
Fellow MGH researcher, Sue McGreevey, noted that previous studies 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.
These prior studies, however, could not narrow down the structural differences to meditation specifically until now.
This most recent study found that an average of 27 minutes of a daily practice stimulated a significant boost in gray matter density, specifically in the hippocampus.
This is 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 correlated 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, thereby ruling out the passage of time as a factor of influence regarding the drastic change in gray matter density fluctuations.
MGH fellow, Britta Hölzel, states that neuroscientists are finding far more plasticity in brain structure than anticipated and that most importantly we are now aware from a scientific point of view that we can play a very active role in altering our brain structure to improve our overall well-being and quality of life.
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