[Paleopsych] NYT: Effects: When Mindful Awareness Goes to Your Head

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Wed Nov 30 23:24:58 UTC 2005

Effects: When Mindful Awareness Goes to Your Head

    Vital Signs

    People who meditate regularly appear to undergo changes in parts of
    the brain that handle perception and attentiveness, a new study

    The study sample is small, and it is unclear what the changes may
    mean, but researchers said that when they compared M.R.I. scans of
    people who meditated with those of people who did not, they found more
    gray matter in the frontal cortexes of those who meditate.

    "We presume it's a good thing, but we don't know for sure," said the
    lead author of the study, Sara W. Lazar, a researcher at Massachusetts
    General Hospital. The study appears in the current issue of

    While early studies have found evidence that people who meditate
    extensively, like Buddhist monks, experience long-lasting changes in
    their brains, the researchers here were interested in what effect, if
    any, more moderate amounts of meditation have.

    For this study, they looked at 20 people who practiced a form of
    meditation known as mindful awareness, which does not involve the
    repetition of a mantra. Five of the volunteers taught meditation or
    yoga, but the rest held traditional jobs and reported meditating on
    average once a day for 40 minutes. All had taken part in at least one
    weeklong mediation retreat at some point.

    These volunteers, the researchers found, had thicker tissue in the
    parts of the brain involved in attention and sensory processing than
    the other volunteers did. The difference was especially notable in
    older volunteers, suggesting that meditation may help reduce the
    cortical thinning that comes with age, the researchers said.

    The study could not establish that the differences were attributable
    to meditation, but Dr. Lazar noted that other studies had found
    structural changes in jugglers' brain, presumably caused by the
    demands of their craft. She said the researchers believed other forms
    of meditation and even yoga might produce the same results.

More information about the paleopsych mailing list