[Paleopsych] NYT: Effects: When Mindful Awareness Goes to Your Head
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Wed Nov 30 23:24:58 UTC 2005
Effects: When Mindful Awareness Goes to Your Head
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
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.
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