A study that examined the effects of meditation on the brain has confirmed what many practitioners have long suspected.
Buddhist monks have been sure of it for centuries, while late adopters in the West have recently come to the idea. Now, American researchers have added scientific weight to the notion that daily meditation can make your brain faster and improve your ability to concentrate.
Researchers at Binghamton University, New York, used brain scans to see how practicing meditation for 10 minutes a day changed the cognitive behavior of 10 students.
Comparison of the before and after scans of the eight-week trial revealed that meditation led to a faster switch between the brain’s two general states of consciousness: the ‘default mode network’, which is active when the brain is awake but not focused, as during daydreaming. ; and the “back attention network”, when the brain engages in tasks that demand attention.
The results of the study, published in the journal Nature, showed that after the meditation course, the participants had better brain connections between and within the two networks.
“The findings indicate the potential effects of meditation on enhancing the brain’s ability to rapidly switch between wandering mind and focused attention and maintaining attention once in states of attention,” the study concluded.
The research came after a casual conversation between two academics at the university: Professor George Weinschenk, who is an advocate of meditation; and assistant professor Weiying Dai, who was skeptical about the benefits of meditation. Both from the computer science department of the university.
Buddhists and Hindus are among those who have practiced meditation for centuries. Image: Sasin Tipchai
“I told Weiying, ‘meditation can really have a transformative effect on the brain,'” Weinschenk said. “She was a bit skeptical, especially about whether such a short amount of time to learn to meditate… would make any difference. She suggested that we could quantify such a thing with modern technology. “
Having used MRI scans to track Alzheimer’s disease in people, Dai suggested using the scans to observe changes in the brains of people who practiced regular meditation. Weinschenk recruited 10 students, taught them to meditate, and told them to practice for 10-15 minutes a day, five times a week.
The findings indicate the possible effects of meditation on improving brain power.
With such a small number of people participating in the trial, more research is needed. However, the results have persuaded Dai of the virtues of meditation. “I am quite convinced about the scientific basis of meditation after doing this study,” she said.
So much so, Dai is ready to launch a new line of research to see if regular meditation could help people with Alzheimer’s disease and autism. Both conditions have been linked to deficiencies in the back care network.
How to meditate
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, in a place where no one will disturb you. You can also choose to sit cross-legged on the floor, kneel, or even lie down; all is well, as long as you can stay in the position comfortably for 10 minutes. You may want to use a timer to know when to finish.
Image: Susanna Marseille
Close your eyes and direct your attention to your body, taking a moment to notice any physical sensations and emotions. Now put your attention on your breath, following it in and out. You may notice your breath in your nostrils or the sensation of rising and falling in your belly, for example. If your mind wanders, as it inevitably will, gently return your attention to your breathing. Avoid judging yourself when doing this; Once you realize that you are trapped in your thoughts, simply let the thoughts go and return your attention to your breath each time.
Image: Everyday Matters
When 10 minutes have passed, gently open your eyes. Pause for a moment to observe your surroundings, including sounds or smells. See how you feel. Then get on with your day.
For more meditation tips, visit mindful.org
Image: Omid Armin
Lead Image: Hristina Satalova