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Yes, Virginia, Meditation Can Grow Your Brain

01 Mar

Researchers from the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Aarhus University in Denmark explored changes occurring in the brain from the long-term practice of meditation.  It has already been established that the practice of sustained attention results in increased cortical thickness.  In this investigation, evidence was found of structural differences in the lower brainstem. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed higher gray matter density in the lower brain stem regions concerned with cardiorespiratory control in experienced meditators, as compared with age-matched non-meditators. This could account for some of the cardio-respiratory, parasympathetic effects and traits reported in several studies of various meditation practices, as well as the cognitive, emotional, and immunoreactive impacts reported in these studies. 

This also supports our new understanding of the plasticity of the brain – a far cry from thinking the brain was a static structure where growth was not possible and the only changes over time were irreversible cell death.  

Citation:  Vestergaard-Poulsen P, van Beek M, Skewes J, Bjarkam CR, Stubberup M, Bertelsen J, Roepstorff A.   Long- term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem.   Neuroreport.  2009  Jan 28; 20 (2): pages 170-4. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award