Meditation Practices Can Restructure Your Brain, Study Finds
According to a study published last month in Science Advances, certain meditation practices can literally reshape the human brain. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human and Cognitive Brain Sciences in Germany, led by neuroscientist Sofie Valk, tested the brain plasticity of 300 subjects new to meditation.
For the study, the researchers analyzed the effects of three sets of cognitive exercises, focusing on presence, affect, and perspective. They found changes in different brain cortices that manage different behaviors after training in each practice.
Courses in presence taught mindfulness using body and breathing exercises. Conversely, training in affect involved loving-kindness meditation and the generation of good feelings. Perspective training taught subjects to experience the points of view of their inner selves as well as others.
The investigators looked for changes by conducting brain scans of subjects using magnetic resonance imaging tools, and also tested the behavior of participants.
Results found that cortical thickness was boosted in four different brain regions linked to presence, affect, and perspective and subject’s responses to assigned tasks changed after engaging in the different training modules.
Unlike other studies, this study used participants who had never practiced meditation before. Courses lasted 90 days and subjects were considered to be “healthy adults” and aged 20-55. Subjects were split into two groups and participated in the training in a different order, which did not appear to affect the results.
Both groups went on a retreat and did exercises every day at least five times per week, some individually and some online with other participants. About 25 dropped out, but those 275 or so who remained revealed brain changes as measured during the study.
You can read and learn more about the practices and how you also can reshape your brain through meditation exercises here.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology