Researchers at U.C.L.A. have been studying the effects of meditation on the brain for many years. Among other things, they found that those who meditate for several years have altered the amount of gray matter and the connections between neurons have become faster.
Professor Eileen Luders, assistant at the Laboratory at U.C.L.A. Imaging Neuro, and his colleagues, found that in the long run, those who meditate have a higher number of circumvolutions ("folds" of the cortex, which allows the brain to process information faster) than those who do not meditate. Moreover, a direct correlation was found between the number of circumvolutions and the number of years of meditation, providing additional evidence of the neuroplasticity ofthe brain, or its ability to adapt to environmental changes.
The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of neural tissue. Among other functions, it plays a key role in memory, attention, thinking and consciousness. Circumvolutions or folds of the cortex are a process by which the surface of the brain undergoes changes to create narrow ditches, forming the so-called spears and gyri. Their formation can favor and strengthen neural processes. It is assumed that when there are multiple folds, the brain manages to better process information, make decisions or strengthen its memory and so on.
"Rather than comparing meditators with non-meditators, we wanted to see if there was a connection between the practice of meditation and the extent of brain change," Luders said. " This is correlated with the number of years of meditation, which increases the number of folds or circumvolutions of the brain."
Of the 40 subjects recruited, the researchers performed MRI scans on 23 tutors and compared them to the subjects of the control group in the number of 16, depending on age and gender. ( Ten participants have abandoned) . Scans for the control group were obtained from an existing MRI base, and the tutors were recruited from various meditation centers. Those who meditated had about 20 years of meditation experience, using various types of meditation, such as Samatha, Vipassana, Zen or others.
They found proundated group differences (increased levels of circumvolutions among those who actively practiced meditation) on a very large segment of the cortex, including the left precentral gyrus, the left and right anterior dorsal island, the right fusiform gyrus and the right cuneus.
Perhaps the most interesting fact, however, was the positive correlation between the number of years of meditation and the amount of insular circumvolutions.
"The anterior dorsal island is supposed to function as a center for vegetative, affective and cognitive integration," Luders said. "Meditators are recognized as masters in introspection and awareness, as well as in emotional and mental control, so the conclusions emphasize that the higher the number of years of meditation, the greater the degree of folding in the island area.
Although genetic and environmental factors may have contributed to the researchers' effects, "a positive correlation between circumvolutions and the number of years of practice, which supports the idea that meditation improves the degree of creating new circumvolutions in the brain"
This discovery can only motivate us even more in the practice of meditation, now having scientific proof that it is up to us to become better!
Source: Sience Daily , after an article by Mark Wheeler