Meditation Benefits for the Brain – Changes In The Brain Before And After Meditation
Meditation benefits for the brain
A Blog Post by Anne-Maria Hawthorne
Scientific research has proved that meditation restructures the brain in such a manner that it is able to concentrate better on tasks at hand, cope up with stress, and become more compassionate.
There are benefits of meditation that extend to the various parts of your body including the heart. If you are curious to know what happens to your brain when you meditate, read on.
There are two popular types of meditation: the focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. Whereas in the former, you focus on a single specific object or thing, in the latter it could mean being aware of everything around you without reacting.
Whatever be the type of meditation that you practice, it has been observed that the way in which your brain processes information changes significantly if you meditate regularly.
Brain and Its Parts
The lateral prefrontal cortex is the place from where we assess matters in a logical and rational manner. It modulates emotional responses from the other sections of the brain. This is where habits or automatic behaviors are overridden.
Medial prefrontal cortex in the brain processes all the information about you as a person. This is also called the self-referencing center. This part is made up of the ventromedial medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and dorsomedial mPFC (dmPFC).
Whereas the former processes information about you and people you think or view as being like you, the latter processes information of those you view as dissimilar to you. This part handles feelings of empathy and forming social connects. The vmPFC causes increased worrisome feelings as well as depressive thoughts.
The Insula in the brain guides your response in terms of bodily sensations. It is also responsible for empathetic feelings. The amygdala is yet another section of the brain responsible for emotional reactions that we display.
The Brain – Before Meditation
Before meditation strong neural connections are observed within the mPFC as well as with the insula and amygdala. Whenever a person experiences fear or any bodily sensation (pain, itch, etc.), the body assumes existence of a problem and the cause of the problem to be the self. This further becomes a repetitive loop throughout the person’s life.
This happens repeatedly because of the weak connections between the lateral prefrontal cortex (rational assessment center) and the mPFC. If the connections were stronger, the feelings that arise because of the activity the vmPFC (related to personal self) would have been tamed by the lateral prefrontal cortex while simultaneously increasing the activity of dmPFC which is related to feelings of others.
All these together would help the individual to think more rationally, decrease thinking excessively about events that happened and decrease the worries that emanate thereof.
The Brain – Changes That Occur on Regular Meditation
Meditation benefits for the brain
Firstly, the tight connections between the vmPFC and the insula and amygdala break down. This helps to decrease anxiety and panic to a large extent. Ability to ignore anxiety also increases as further connections to insula and amygdala are broken.
There is a healthier connection established between the lateral prefrontal cortex as well as the insula and amygdala. Because of this you will be able to rationally assess the fear/sensation before reacting to it emotionally. It also happens that the connections between the dmPFC and the insula become stronger thereby enhancing feelings of empathy and compassions for others.
However, daily practice is of utmost importance to realize the changes in the brain that takes place when one meditates regularly.
Personal Experience – Meditation benefits the brain
This is the personal experience of Mahesh Ramachandra (University of Maryland College Park)
I have benefited immensely from yoga and regular meditation for the past two years. I came to USA for my graduate studies from India. I experienced a lot of stress and had to visit a doctor who diagnosed my problem as ADHD. I was put on a stimulant medicine that I had to take on a daily basis. At around the same time I enrolled for the meditation classes by Dr. Narayanan at UMD.
I practiced 30 minutes of meditation every day. This brought order to my life and the stress in my life reduced drastically. I became more calm and composed and was able to manage the symptoms of ADHD in a much better fashion.
Meditation benefits the brain