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How Mindfulness Meditation Permanently Changes Your Brain

June 15, 2014, 12:00 PM
Meditation

What's the Latest?

While many studies have focused on how mindfulness meditation affects newcomers to the practice, a new study out of the University of Pittsburgh examined the brains of long-time meditators specifically when they were not meditating. "MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s 'fight or flight' center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker."

What's the Big Idea?

Mindfulness meditation works on the brain by decoupling regions that have tended to function together. While researchers noticed an uptick in the brain regions that feel pain among meditators, for example, the individuals themselves reported experiencing less pain than non-meditators. This demonstrates the capacity of meditation to create new neural connections and change how different regions relate to one another. Over time, however, the brains of meditators return to more normal states of functioning, suggesting that the benefits achieved by meditation become default. 

Read more at Scientific American

Photo credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

 

How Mindfulness Meditation ...

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