Numerous studies have been trying to diagnose the physiological changes that meditation induces in humans.
One study in particular, led by Sara Lazar who is a senior author at the Massacheutts General Hospital on the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, as well as instructor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School has previously studied meditation.
She found out that the first time practitioners of meditation have their cerebral cortex’s thickened in the areas associated with emotional integration and attention, however the studies weren’t sufficient enough to prove that the changes were from meditation.
Although the study cannot prove anything yet, it surely demonstrates that the brain structure goes under a few improvements which indicate that people don’t feel by the fact that they’re only relaxing, claims Lazar.
The study had 16 participants who had no history of serious consistent or regimented meditative practice. They had MRI’s (magnetic resonance images) taken of their brains only 2 weeks before the study began and before they took part in the meditation program.
The program started out focusing on nonjudgmental awareness of feelings, sensations and state of mind. The participants attended a weekly group guided meditation sessions where they listened to audio recordings for independent guided sessions. It was asked of them to keep track of the amount of frequency and time of their independent meditations.
There was also another group of non-meditators that had MRI’s over the same schedule.
The patients of the meditation group reported spending about 27 minutes of meditating a day. Therefore, when the final results came in, it was obvious that meditation had an profound effect on both the physiology of the brain as well as the consciousness.
The MRI’s also showed that the density of the grey matter had increased in the patients’ hippo campus area. For those of you who haven’t heard, the hippo campus plays an essential role in memory and learning, so improving that part resulted in improvements to neurological structures associated with introspection, compassion and self-awareness.
The meditation group participants reported feeling reduction of stress and anxiety as well as being overwhelmed by feeling of calmness. On the other hand, the control group didn’t show any of these improvements, which only proved that the changes which had occurred in the medication group participants weren’t from passed time.