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How does Meditation Change the Brain? The Interesting neuroscience

Last updated on December 30th, 2023 at 10:30 pm

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In this fast world where anxiety, depression and stress have become very common, we must find some time and tool to relax ourselves. Mediation is the best tool for that.

Many people do use that tool. But as a curiosity some people especially the beginners, question themselves that how does meditation change the brain and what happens to brain when we meditate.

In this article, we will have scientific based explanation for this question. We will see some research, studies which will definitely shed some light on this question.

We will also discuss some facts and neuroscience backed facts and actual process in brain structure happens when you meditate.

Unveil how does meditation change the Brain

In this section we will discuss some neuroscience facts to understand how meditation can bring about positive changes in the brain. This changes subsequently lead to improved cognitive function, emotional regulation, and overall mental health.

1. Meditation changes brain structure

Scientists have been dedicated to uncovering how does meditation change the brain’s physical structure through extensive research.

There are many studies published, as i have mentioned them, which proves that meditation actually changes the brain structure. Let’s see what factors do change with meditation.

Increases Gray Matter

How does Meditation Change the Brain

When we particularly talk about the structure of brain. We must consider the major portion of brain and that is the gray matter. Gray matter is portion of the brain which consists of the neuron cell bodies and synapses. Synapses are the portion between two neuron cells where the exchange of information takes place.

This gray matter plays an important role in exchange and processing of information and thought processes.

While doing neuroimaging studies, scientist discovered that regular meditation practices increase the density of this gray matter in various regions of brain. Article published in neural plasticity shows increase in gray matter on meditation.

This change is seen in beginners who just started the meditation practice.

This increasing portion of gray matter is specially seen in the regions of brain where emotions, memory and decision-making activities are controlled.

Hippocampus strengthening

Hippocampus is a structure or region in the brain which looks like seahorse. It is present deep inside the brain. This region of brain mainly controls the memory and emotion factors.

Research has disclosed how does meditation change the brain’s different regions which decides human emotional experiences.

According to article published in national library of medicine, there is significant changes in brain network in right hippocampus area.

Chronic stress and anxiety lead to shrinkage of this hippocampus part. This is why some people complains about loss of control over emotions and gradually weaking the memory power.

But the practice of meditation helps with this problem. Daily practicing meditation helps in increase the size of this hippocampus region of brain. This eventually prove to be helpful in memory retention and improved cognitive functions.

Prefrontal cortex

How does Meditation Change the Brain

Prefrontal cortex is frontal part of brain. It’s like the CEO of brain. This region of brain controls decision-making, self-control, and regulating emotional activities.

Interestingly, experienced meditators sometimes have a thicker prefrontal cortex. This structural change can be associated with enhanced cognitive control, better emotional regulation, and improved impulse management.

It’s like giving the CEO’s office a renovation to make better decisions.

Technique called Neuroimaging, such as MRI scans, have allowed researchers to observe these structural changes in meditators’ brains.

The brain’s adaptability, as we seen earlier, known as neuroplasticity. This plays an important role in these changes.

As we engage in meditation, the brain forms new connections and enhances existing connections. It’s like strengthening neural pathways associated with positive emotions, cognitive function, and self-awareness. These structural renovations lead to improvements in how we think, feel, and respond to the world around us.

2. Increases connectivity through Neural pathways

Think of the brain as a vast network of highways connecting different cities. Similarly, our brain is made up of various regions that communicate with each other through the connections called neural pathways.

Meditation is like a skilled traffic controller, who improve and control the flow of information between these brain regions.

According to this study daily practice of meditation is highly associated with strong integration and formation of new neural pathways.

It is because of daily practice of meditation the connections between different parts of the brain seems get strengthen. These allows smoother and more efficient communication of nerves across that pathway. This increased communication pathways can lead to improved cognitive flexibility, creativity, and overall brain function.

3. Balancing Neurotransmitter

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals, like a hormone which are essential to maintain overall brain functions.

According to article in Stanford magazine, neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and GABA are increased by regular practicing meditation.

Let’s learn more about them.

Boosting Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a feel-good hormone. It regulates our feeling of happiness and boost our mood. One of the intriguing aspects of how does meditation change the brain is its ability to boost serotonin production.

A study published in Science Direct shows that advance meditation like vipassana is effective in increasing the serotonin level. It is very common especially in advance and long-term meditators.

There are many scientific studies which shows that meditation can actually boost the production of serotonin in the brain. Release of this neurotransmitter, leading to an increased sense of positivity, happiness and contentment.

GABA and Stress Reduction

GABA is Gamma Amino-butyric Acid. It is also a one kind of neurotransmitter. It’s like brains natural anxiety reliever which helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

It acts as a calming agent. It slows down overactive brain signals that contribute to stress, anxiety and overexcitement.

Meditation elevates GABA levels. By practicing meditation, we actually lower stress responses, leading to relaxation, reduced anxiety and increased immunity.

These both neurotransmitters and hormones are like chemical messengers in brain which helps neurons communicate with each other.

It’s like through meditation, we are essentially “training” our brain to produce more serotonin and enhance GABA activity. This means that over time, our brain becomes better equipped to manage stress and maintain a more positive emotional state.

4. Increased Mindfulness and Attention

Strengthens ACC

The fascinating journey of change in brain on meditation includes increased attention and focus.

let’s talk about this.

ACC is short form for Anterior Cingulate Cortex. ACC is the part of brain which controls the attention, focus and self-regulation.

Through the regular practice of meditation, this area becomes more functional and efficient. Studies have shown that regular meditation can lead to structural changes in the ACC, resulting in improved focus, attention control, and the ability to manage distractions.

Overall improvements in this ACC are helpful in sustained attention and focus. Meditation, particularly mindful meditation increases this ACC structure of brain.

Scans have revealed that during meditation, regions associated with attention and self-awareness, including the ACC, become more active. The scientific community finds these findings intriguing, as they offered concrete evidence of meditation’s impact on attentional processes.

How long does it take for meditation to change the brain ?

It’s bit difficult question to answer at once. Still based on research done in field of meditation, we can have some insights on it.

Tracking the timeline of how does meditation change the brain provides insights into both short-term and long-term effects.

Let’s explore the timeline of how long it takes for meditation to change our brain. We will categorize the timeframes according to the changes that could take place in brain structure in specific time periods.

Short-Term Changes

Some brain structure could change in as little as in week. Short-term benefits, like reduced stress and increased relaxation, may become noticeable quickly.

These changes are like the initial steps on a journey of brain transformation.

Moderate Changes

If you do consistently practice further, you can have more changes in brain structure and its functionalities. Studies have shown that regular meditation can lead to improvements in cognitive function, emotional regulation, and attention.

These changes are like planting seeds that begin to sprout and grow over time.

Long-Term Changes

Being dedicated to meditation process and doing it for several months and years, you can see profound changes in yourself.

Over this period, structural changes in the brain become more evident. Brain regions associated with attention, emotional control, and empathy can become more robust and interconnected.

These changes are like the maturation of a tree, where the roots run deep, and the branches reach high.

Neuroimaging studies have given us some insights to know how does meditation change the brain along with the timeline of meditation’s impact on the brain.

Researchers have observed changes in brain structure, connectivity, and activity over different timeframes. These findings help us understand that while some effects are noticeable early, some can take time.

Think of meditation’s effect on the brain as a gradual process, much like nurturing a garden. Just as you don’t see a garden bloom overnight, the brain’s changes take time to develop.

The brain’s plasticity, or its ability to adapt, allows it to gradually rewire itself through consistent meditation practice.

Does meditation really change the Brain?

How does Meditation Change the Brain

The direct and firm answer to this question is, yes.

Meditation actually do change the brain and its structure.

There is extensive study on the changing brain structure after the meditation. All studies stated the impact of meditation on brain.

Let’s discuss some studies published by some reputed scientists and scientific community.

According to study conducted on regular medical practitioners, it is observed that they have increased cortical thickness upon regular meditation practice.

  • This study gives us some insight on neuroplasticity in the brain.
  • Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to adapt and reorganize itself in response to some prior experiences. Understanding how meditation changes the brain involves knowing concept of neuroplasticity.

This study shows that meditation could develop the power of neuroplasticity which leads to significant changes in structure and function of brain.

There is another study which was published in Psychiatry Research- Neuroimaging and which demonstrates the increased gray matter density in hippocampus region of brain. This region of brain is considered as vital for memory.

  • This gray matter in brain contains cell bodies and synapses which plays an important role in various brain functions.
  • This research also demonstrated that meditation promotes the growth of gray matter in regions linked to emotional regulation, memory, and self-awareness.

As a health blogger i know the significance of stress management. Managing stress is very important for some professionals. There are also some studies which revealed that stress management could be achieved by doing meditation.

Cortisol, which is a stress hormone is reduced by meditation. Now this study clearly showed that meditation led to decreased cortisol levels.

Like this there are extensive and vast studies to establish the fact that meditation can actually change the brain.

Before knowing answer to this question of how meditation changes brain, you need to know some terms in relation to this question.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is a scientific term used to denote a brain’s certain ability to reorganize and adapt itself based on the past impressions or experiences of life. Neuroplasticity is the first and most influential impact happens in brain after meditation.

Embracing and understanding the concept of neuroplasticity allows us to understand how does meditation change the brain over time.

How does Meditation Change the Brain

Through consistent practice, meditation can create a new neural pathway and strengthen existing connections, leading to changes in the brain’s architecture (structure) and eventually its functions.

Default Mode Network (DMN)

Default Mode Network (DMN) is a state of mind which is always awake in any context. It creates some random thoughts, memories and experiences-based on past memories. It’s a part of our brain which hangs in there randomly when you are not focused on something specific.

Let’s make it simple for you.

Think of the DMN as your brain’s backstage area. Imagine you’re at a concert. When the band is playing on stage, there’s a whole crew working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly and right.

Similarly, the DMN is like the backstage crew of your brain.

When you’re not actively doing or not focused on something that requires your full attention your DMN interrupts you. Activities like daydreaming, reflecting on past memories, or just letting your thoughts wander, your DMN springs into action.

It’s like a team of brain regions working together, having conversations and sharing ideas.

Now this might be a twist for you. DMN is not only the space of some random thoughts. It also become active when you go into self-reflection zone. It helps you understand yourself, your past experiences, and even imagine what might happen in the future and take decisions accordingly.

Here is another twist. Usually, this DMN thing is relaxed when you focus on something specific. But it becomes active when you need to be creative and do creative thinking. You might have felt this sometimes. Like a super idea springs or pop ups in your mind while taking shower or just walking with friend.

I hope this article have felt valuable to you regarding this vital question.

Thank you so much for reading this article.

FAQ’s

Can meditation increase IQ?

Meditation can increase IQ by enhancing brain capacity of memory, comprehension, attention, focus and others. There is evidence available that meditation can increase IQ.

Why is meditation so powerful?

Meditation is powerful in many ways. One of the dangerous benefits of meditation is that it teaches your brain to focus on one thing. It makes our brain so powerful that anything it desired, would be possible to accomplish.

Which type of meditation is more powerful?

There is no single type of meditation that can be claimed as powerful. Different types of meditation can be done using different techniques. I would suggest doing kriya yoga which I preferably do.

Can meditation give superpowers?

Meditation cannot give you superpowers in sense of some traditional way. But meditation can equip you with some special qualities, skill and capabilities.

What superpowers does meditation give a person ?

Meditation cannot give you superpowers in sense of some traditional way as I mentioned above.

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