Monday, July 14, 2008

Neuroscience: Meditation really can change the brain

Barbara Lantin of The Times of London reports that "Meditation can alter brain structure" (March 14, 2008):

Long-term meditation seems not only to alter brain-wave patterns: early research suggests that it may also result in changes in the actual structure of the cortex, the outer parts of our brains. “We have found that brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in the controls,” says Dr Sara Lazar, an assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The data give credence to some of the claims of long-term meditators and suggests that meditation can play a role in reducing stress, improving emotion regulation and perhaps slowing the effects of ageing on brains - slowing the normal decrease in mental agility, ability to learn new things and memory that comes with age."
The thing to see here is that the brain is not cast in cement. Anything we spend a lot of time doing will alter our brains. Unfortunately, some people get hold of that and conclude that "meditators have a certain kind of brain" and set about looking for a "spirituality gene"

That makes as much sense as saying that people who are physically fit have a certain kind of body and looking for the "fitness gene" that explains it. As if.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation: