Findings Friday: Super brain

Everyone’s been talking about the effects of meditation on the brain. Since it is such a healthy part of daily living and can work wonders on cognitive skills, including learning, memory, and creativity, I do think it is important to give a brief overview of the benefits meditation has on cognition.

The meditation to be analyzed is simple breath meditation, with or with a mantra. No om’s necessary.

A study done by Newberg, et al., 2010, tested whether those with memory loss would demonstrate changes in their memory and cerebral blood flow (CBF) after an 8-week meditative program. “Fourteen subjects with memory problems had an IV inserted and were injected with 250 MBq of Tc-99m ECD while listening to a neutral stimulus CD. They then underwent a pre-program baseline SPECT scan. ”

Basically, what this means is that 14 subjects with memory loss were injected with a dye used in brain imaging studies (the dye is radioactive; sounds more frightening than it actually is. It helps in imaging blood flow). The subjects then had their brains imaged as a baseline.

“Then subjects were guided through their first meditation session with a CD, during which they received an injection of 925 MBq ECD, and underwent a pre-program meditation scan. Subjects completed an 8-week meditation program and underwent the same scanning protocol resulting in a post-program baseline and meditation scan. “

In other words, the subjects underwent guided meditation, where someone guides through breathing, posture, etc.. The subjects were injected with the imaging dye and had baseline imaging done. They then underwent an 8-week meditation program, then had their brains imaged once more.

The results: CBF was increased to the brain areas responsible for cognition, including the prefrontal cortex. Memory was also found to increase after meditative training.

Another study by Zeidan, et al., 2010, found that even brief meditation can be effective:

After four sessions of either meditation training or listening to a recorded book, participants with no prior meditation experience were assessed with measures of mood, verbal fluency, visual coding, and working memory. Both interventions were effective at improving mood but only brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Our findings suggest that 4days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.”

In other words, even short sessions and for a shorted duration can affect cognition positively, enhance mood and overall allow for a better functioning brain.

There a number of other studies that indicate similar things. Whether a novice meditator or a seasoned one, meditation can affect cognition positively, and enhance even mood, making the meditator a better, happier thinker.

Don’t believe me, here are several more studies:

Moore and Malinowski, 2009

Kaszniak, chapter excerpt

Friese, et al., 2012

And Jon Kabat-Zinn, who propelled the west into meditation, speaks here:

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