The brain works better when doing meditation

The brain works better when doing meditation
The brain works better when doing meditation

Millions of people around the world resort to meditation: some practice it as a spiritual practice, while others see it as a healing procedure. Most people confidently say that it helps calm their minds, reorient their thoughts, and prioritize them correctly. Scientists decided to study this effect.

The new study was carried out by specialists from the University of Binghamton. The experiment, which lasted 8 weeks, involved 10 student volunteers. The idea for the study came about by chance during a conversation between two university staffers: Associate Professor Weiying Dai and Ph.D. George Weinschenk.

Weinshenk's wife worked as an administrator at a monastery - the North American residence of the Dalai Lama, and there he learned to meditate.

“I became very close friends with several monks. We spent time together, I received instruction, went to class, read a lot, and received a three-year certificate in Buddhist studies.”

Dai is a specialist in brain mapping and biomedical imaging. During her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, she tracked Alzheimer's patients using magnetic resonance imaging.

“I am interested in researching the brain to see how it functions and how certain diseases affect it. I have no medical training as a doctor, but I get this knowledge by reading literature and talking with experts."

In a conversation with Weinshenk, she doubted any tangible effect of meditation, especially in a short time, but suggested that the truth could be established with the help of instruments. A grant for the corresponding research was received for the fall semester of 2017.

At Cornell University, MRI scans of the brains of all participants in the experiment were carried out. For his part, Weinshenck taught the students to meditate, advised them to practice it five times a week for 10 or 15 minutes, and asked them to keep a diary of their practice. The program also included classes on the cultural dimension of meditation and its use for wellness.

Binghamton University

Already according to the first results of the analysis of all the data obtained, it turned out that meditation allows you to quickly switch between two general states of consciousness. One of them is called the network of the passive mode of the brain: it is activated when a person is not busy with a specific task, but is resting, "hovering in the clouds" or immersed in himself. The second is the so-called dorsal network of attention, which is responsible for interacting with the outside world.

According to other studies, people spend almost half of their waking hours on mental "journeys" without thinking about current tasks. To return to reality requires a rewiring of the brain. This speed is individual for each person, but you can improve the performance with the help of meditation.

“The Tibetans have a term for the ease of switching between states. They call it "pliability": the ability to adapt and shape your mind. And they consider concentration to be one of the fundamental principles of self-development,”- Weinshenk.

Dai and Weinshenk continue to process the collected material. The study has tremendous practical promise: Since Alzheimer's and autism can be caused by problems with the dorsal network of attention, Dai wants to find ways to use meditation to alleviate these conditions.

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