Alternative MethodsConventional Methods


Meditation can rebuild your brain, according to Harvard research
Mar 9, 2021

Reading time less than 1 minute

Test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard University.

The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.

“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Sue McGreevey of MGH writes: “Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.” Until now, that is.

The participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. McGreevey adds: “Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. You can read more about the remarkable study by visiting Harvard.edu.


Leave your comments / questions for this practitioner

To write a comment please
or

Related Articles

View All
2 min.
Breathing Meditation (Pranayama)
Mar 2 2021
How you breathe affects Memory and Fear

A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgement.

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activi…

Demi Powell
3 min.
Breathing Meditation (Pranayama)
Oct 7 2021
Meditating: the way to unwind!

Do you think it’s important to unwind? So do we! One of the best known and most effective ways is to meditate.

We all need calm, peace and love in our lives, but it doesn’t always come naturally. If it just won’t come our way, why don’t we seek it out ou…

HUSTL
6 min.
Breathing Meditation (Pranayama)
Mar 19 2021
Don't have time to meditate? Read this!

This morning, like every morning, I sat cross-legged on a cushion on the floor in my comfy yoga pants, rested my hands on my knees, closed my eyes, and did nothing but breathe for 20 minutes.

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding the ti…

Demi Powell
5 min.
Breathing Meditation (Pranayama)
Oct 17 2019
Rebirthing Therapy: Safety, Technique, Bans, and More

What is rebirthing? Rebirthing is an alternative therapy method used to heal reactive attachment disorder. This therapy exploits a particular type of breathing(breathwork) meant to help you release emotions. Supporters of rebirthing say that by participat…

Demi Powell