Brain activity and meditation


Research on the effects of meditation on the brain and central nervous system has taken off in the last 40 years, often involving collaborations between neuroscientists, psychologists and meditators. I first heard about this in the early 1970’s, when I was looking for any tiny clues that could help me recover from massive and global brain damage. I read that deep meditators have synchronized electrical activity across their brains, so that left and right hemispheric brain waves take on the same patterns. I knew about rhythm entrainment, in physics, where the pendulums of grandfather clocks placed against the same wall, all take on the same swing. I hoped that it could help my brain, which had poor communication between different areas, including memory, sensory, emotional, and cognitive functions. I started meditating as much as I could.

More recent research with experienced meditators and brain imaging studies has shown these areas to be activated:

  • Ayay-13250254nterior cingulate cortex. Is located just behind the frontal lobes.  It helps regulate some autonomic functions such as blood pressure and heart rate, and has both emotional and cognitive roles. It is involved with being able to stay rational, anticipate rewards, make decisions, control impulses and have empathy for others.
  • Medial prefrontal cortex. It processes what relates to you. It is self-referential, about your perspective, experiences and identity.
  • Lateral prefrontal cortex. Modulates emotional responses, allows you to view things with more detachment and balance.
  • Insula monitors bodily sensations, awareness of movement, processes your awareness of “gut feelings”. Helps you know what is safe oyay-234937r unsafe. Also empathy.
  • Amygdala. The fear response center. It sets off alarms for unsafe situations, alerts us for fight or flight. There is a decrease in amygdala activity with meditation, which helps people keep reactions under control.
  • Hippocampus. Suggests an increased ability to control attention and focused awareness.
  • Additional research with people with memory loss who participated in an 8 week meditation program showed increased blood flow in the superior frontal, and superior parietal cortices.

yay-11391312Mindfulness meditation has been shown to have benefits beyond the brain: decreased cortisol/decreased stress, improved immune function, better sleep, overcoming bad habits, and even decrease in mental health disorders.

Can you imagine having improvements in all these areas and functions? Meditation takes setting aside some time every day on a regular basis to show the most benefit. You will find yourself better able to cope with stressful situations, have more emotional balance, compassion, empathy, feel more calm, able to reason, make good decisions.

It’s never too late to start!

References and links to other readings:
1. Mindfulness Meditation Linked with Positive Brain Changes (Huffington Post)
2. Meditation/Mindfulness training may Decrease stress and depression (National Institutes of Health)
3. Complementary treatment for mental health disorders (National Institutes of Health)
4. Mindfulness Meditation: How It Works In The Brain (Huffington Post)
5. This is Your Brain on Meditation, (Psychology Today)
6. Overcome bad habits, Tips to Resist Temptations (Psychology Today)
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2 Replies to “Brain activity and meditation”

  1. Emma

    Dear Rosi,
    Thank you for this wonderful reminder of the benefits of Meditation. It truly is a benefit and to be assured of those, gives me more incentive to keep on keeping on!

    Intending (praying) ALL IS WELL with you, dear friend. Let me thank you once again for your time, sharing, and love given so freely to others and me during your time at FSC. (Check our website to see where we are located at present—-we moved to Milwaukie in March, across the street from St. John the Baptist Church.)

    Much love and sending blessings in super abundance, your sister

  2. Integration Massage Post author

    Dear Sister Emma,

    It is so great to hear from you!

    I am glad you enjoyed the post. And, yes, there are many benefits to meditation. It is wonderful that research confirms it. It makes it easier to recommend, with some authority, to clients.

    I see that you have an open house at FSC’s new location. I am working to get my research written up by an Oct. 1 deadline, so am not scheduling get-togethers until after that. How does your mid-October look?

    Love and Blessings,
    Your sister, Rosi