Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chicken: egg = Brain structure: meditation

Why do you meditate? Because you recognize the truth of suffering and want to find your way off the wheel of samsara? Because you want to get to know how your mind works? Or because your brain predisposes you to such investigations?

Yet another scientific study shows that meditators have better brain function (along with lower blood pressure, more happiness, and better sex. (No citation for the last one, but c'mon. Ask Sting and Trudy.)

One of the study's co-authors, Eileen Luders, a visiting assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, suggests that there may be other factors at play when looking at the relationship between meditation and brains.

“It’s possible that meditators might have brains that are fundamentally different to begin with,” Luders said. “For example, a particular brain anatomy may have drawn an individual to meditation or helped maintain an ongoing practice — meaning that the enhanced fiber connectivity in meditators constitutes a predisposition toward meditation, rather than being the consequence of the practice.”

Wow -- so perhaps it's my brainmind that wants my mind to examine how it functions.

The study, in current online edition of the journal NeuroImage, suggests that people who meditate have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. Having stronger connections influences the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals throughout the brain. This follows a study two years ago that found increases in specific areas of meditators’ brains.

There are more technical descriptions here

Luders is a meditator herself, which is nice. And I liked this: “It is possible that actively meditating, especially over a long period of time, can induce changes on a micro-anatomical level.”

It is also possible that meditating over a long period of time can make changes on a macro-social level, affecting how you function in the world and how the world functions with you in it.

White fiber. Lovingkindness. Electric impulses in the brain. Smiling at a stranger on the street. Sitting. Walking gently in the world. Interdependence of the body systems. Interdependence of beings. Neurons set to stun the self with the ordinary magic of connections beyond conception. At least for now.

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