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:

Buddhist Insights while Slicing Mouse Brains

So I was listening to a couple dharma podcasts and some Alan Watts podcasts. And so I’m sitting in lab, microtoming (slicing) mice brains as I’m listening to these podcasts (Microtoming is a tedious, somewhat mindless job, ugh). And I have on my purple latex-free nitrile lab gloves, and there’s a permanent marker next to me, so whenever I heard a jewel of a quote or idea that spoke to me, I wrote them all over my gloves.

So now I have three gloves full of quotes that I’d like to share with y’all:

 Let go of our preferences

Obstructing thorns are everywhere—you’re given plenty of chances for irritation

Buddhism is the middle way, but middle way does not mean the same as moderation. Rather, middle way means the bringing together of opposites.

Something about being insecure at last—I think it has something to do with letting go of the Ego, the I, and recognizing that the self is not an independent entity, but rather, a dependent element, dependent on the environment it interacts with, etc. Therefore, you are not your ego, or something like that.

 We get rescued by giving what we need the most.

To express ourselves we must first feel ourselves deeply. This is perhaps what we’re waiting for.

 Stop desiring to stop suffering. Because then that’s a desire. And desires can cause suffering, or so is how I understood it all.

 Civilization is an elaborate engaging mechanism for avoiding basic truths. Meaning, we turn away, for example, when we see someone cry, or we use/say trite things, and so, the polite things we do in society are the things that allow us to turn away from emotions, form grief, from pain, etc. Or that’s how I understood it.

Craving creates suffering.


 Any of these speak to anyone? Which ones? How so?

Or anyone have any deep, meaningful thoughts about these quotes? Any insight? I’d love to hear some!