Meditation and the Brain
Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate. Coupled with this is a relatively new scientific understanding- “neuroplasticity” - which makes it possible to healthily increase the strength, size, and density of our brains, just like physical exercise can make your muscles stronger, denser, with more endurance. The implications of this finding are immense, with meditation being the frontrunner as one of the very best brain exercises!
When one meditates, the overall difference in the brain is that the brain stops processing information as actively as it normally would.
Meditation naturally and beneficially increases the neural mass (gray matter) of the brain by harnessing the brain’s “neuroplastic” potential
Neuroscientists now view meditation as the top way to upgrade your brain, with the potential to transform your life in many big ways.
In the image below you can see how the beta waves (shown in bright colors on the left) are dramatically reduced during meditation (on the right).
The pre-frontal cortex – The CEO of the brain
- This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness.
- During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.
- Research indicates that meditators have much more density, thickness, and neural activity within their "left prefrontal cortex" which means: far less anxiety and depression, improved decision making, stronger willpower, more success, more processing power, better health, the list goes on.
- This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space.
- During meditation, activity in "third-dimensional" based parietal lobes cooled off immensely, which happens to be the same area that becomes overheated when we feel lonely.
- When people lose their sense of self in meditation, feeling a sense of oneness, this results in a blurring of the boundary between self and others...with no sense of space or passage of time, reducing feelings of loneliness, releasing a cascade of scientifically proven psychological and physiological benefits, in turn making you a happier and healthier person
What happens in your brain when you meditate?
This is what happens in each part of the brain during meditation
How meditation positively impacts us
Meditation’s simultaneous benefits of “dual activated thinking” and “neuroplastic brain rewiring” open up a highly beneficial world of possibilities, helping you have:
- The same “whole brain thinking” state as many of humanity’s greatest thinkers.
- Ability to process and assimilate information much faster.
- Super advanced levels of creativity.
- Powerful problem-solving skills with exceptional learning ability.
- Heightened mental awareness and increased confidence as you develop more advanced thought processes.
- More intellectual processing power.
- More personal and professional success.
- The tools to control your own destiny, with the intuition to easily navigate your way.
- Greatly enhanced focus and concentration.
- And a limitless number of other benefits…
- Known as the anxiety, stress, and fear centre of the brain, an overactive amygdala can lead to a whole host of problems, including the unnecessary initiation of our "fight or flight" response.
- With meditation the brain shows less "fear centre" amygdalae density, with far less "fearful message communication" to the rest of the brain.
- By meditating you are harnessing neuroplasticity to cool off your over-heated amygdala . This effectively upgrades and rewires your stress response circuitry, while opening the door up to an array of incredible mind-body benefits.
- The hippocampus is critical in learning and memory.
- Meditation increases the neural thickness, density, and overall size of the hippocampus.
- Adding meditation to your daily routine can in essence — put your brain on a level too advanced for depression, while putting the depression wheels in reverse.
- Meditators’ corpus callosum, the grand central station-like cable of nerves connecting the brain hemispheres, is remarkably stronger, thicker, and more well-connected.
- Strengthening this bridge-like structure is helpful in getting your brain halves to communicate with each other like never before.
- Harmonizing both of your brain hemispheres gives you an array of new abilities: increased focus, deeper thought, more creativity, optimized mental health, better memory, and clearer thinking, just to name a few.
- Compassion upgrades everything. There are also a host of health benefits that come from practicing kindness and compassion for others, like alleviating anxiety and depression, strengthening the immune system, and helping you live longer.
- Researchers discovered the "right anterior dorsal insula" to be highly active during meditation. What’s the link? This happens to be the same brain area that lights up like a Christmas tree when we show authentic kindness and compassion toward others
Posterior Cingulate Cortex
- Researchers have discovered that one particular brain region responsible for the "wandering mind", the posterior cingulate cortex (PCT), becomes deactivated during meditation.
- What does this mean? Corralling the so-called "wandering mind" opens up a whole wonderful world of "present mind" benefits, cancelling out much of the real reason for unhappiness.
Temporoparietal junction (TPJ)
- The the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) becomes highly activated during emotional intelligence centred activities, like social interaction.
- Long thought to be a critical brain area for highly empathic, conscientious people, meditation, through the power of neuroplasticity, builds up a big and strong "emotional intelligence" centred TPJ
- Serving as the on/off switch to the REM stage of sleep, the funnily named, base of the brain originating "Pons" regulates the main dreamtime chemical: melatonin.
- Meditation, through the power of neuroplasticity, builds up a big and strong sleep centred "Pons."
- The gatekeeper for the senses -this organ focuses your attention by funnelling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks.
- Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
- As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.