Meditation and Brain

When we discuss meditation I get the feeling that most people are under the impression that it is a subject for the puritanical. This is not quite so. But, yes spiritual progress cannot be perfected without meditation. Moreover, you will be pleasantly surprised to know the good effects of meditation on your body, central nervous system, your immune system, and mainly your brain. A group of highly qualified scientists in the Unites States of America conducted a study on the effects of mindfulness meditation on brain and immune functions with healthy employees.

They measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five meditators took part in this study along with 16 non-meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, all were vaccinated with influenza vaccine.

They found significant increases in left-sided anterior activation (a pattern associated with positive affect) in the meditators compared with the non-meditators. Also, significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine amocig meditators compared with the non-meditators.

These results show that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function and suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways.

Dr. Richard Davidson a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, USA, conducted a research to scientifically explore the workings of Tibetan monks’ meditating minds. Eight of most accomplished practitioners of unconditional compassion (loving kindness) and a group of volunteers with little meditation practice took part in this exploration. The results dearly showed that meditation activated the trained minds of the monks in significantly different ways from those of the volunteers.

According to experts, the left prefrontal cortex region of the brain is associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions. In this experiment, Dr. Davidson found that the monks’ brain activity was especially high in this area. This result shows that loving kindness meditation helps your brain work in such a way to keep you happy.

Central nervous system is also called the control centre of your body. It contains brain which directs and supports almost all the voluntary and involuntary functions of your body. Voluntary responses are those which we can control. Involuntary responses include breathing, beating of the heart, digestion, sweating, blinking, some reflexes and other movements that are not under our control. And because the involuntary nervous system is usually the one being affected the most by stress.

depression and other fatigue related problems, experts have thought of the use of meditation as a solution. When a person is experiencing stress the nervous system produces a response called “fight or flight”. Fight or flight responses increase the heart and breathing rate of a person, and also the narrow down of the blood vessels and tightening of the muscles, making your body ready to run or fight. This response is good in most extreme cases, but having this over a tong time can cause physical damage to your body.

The nervous system also creates a response called “rest and digest” response when a person is under stress. This response of the nervous system is the opposite of the previous one. In here, slowing down of the heart and breathing rate occurs, as well as the dilation of the blood vessels, which improves the flow of the blood into the body.

Meditation, according to experts, works in such a way that it reduces the work of the nervous system that gives “fight or flight” response. And encourages or energizes the work of the “rest and digest” response. Therefore, this results in to enhanced breathing and flow of the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body. Theses brain researches have begun to produce some concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries. This subject is open for more researches, providing more knowledge in the future.


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