Meditation’s Long-term Effect on the Brain

A new study supports the idea that meditation causes long-term physiological changes in brain structure. A summary is here. The full article from PNAS is here. Specifically, the researchers found that experienced meditators had extremely strong gamma wave patterns before meditating (baseline), and those patterns strengthened further during meditation (see brain on right in figure). They note that “these data suggest that massive distributed neural assemblies are synchronized with a high temporal precision”. A correlation also was found between length of meditation history and gamma pattern strength.

Many people have heard about how meditation supposedly promotes alpha waves. The authors of this study hypothesize that that may be an effect of mantra-based meditation, whereas their study focused on Tibetan-style compassion-oriented meditation.

This type of research, incredibly important and interesting, is still in its infancy. It’s encouraging that the government is supporting such research (through the National Institute of Mental Health, Mind-Body Center). There is so much yet to study and learn about the neurophysiological effects of meditation.

One Response to “Meditation’s Long-term Effect on the Brain”

  1. Ralf Says:

    Jack Pettigrew at the University of Queensland (Australia) is also doing some work on this at the moment, e.g. on Thong Len. He comes from studies in bipolar issues, and is looking particularly at the left/right hemisphere switching mechanisms. He’s recently done some studies of monks in Dharamsala after being invited there by the Dalai Lama, which I’ve heard him give a talk on but I’m not sure if the publications are out yet.

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