Long-Term Meditation and the Brain

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Transcendental meditation may promote the blood flow to the brain. The effects of meditation are quite different from those after simple rests or sleep. The practice of meditation may awaken the deep sensations and improve the reactions to stimulus and threats. Meditation usually promotes continued attention.

Long-term meditation practice may have different structures of the brain, as compared with non-practitioners. Researchers in Denmark examined the structural effects in the lower brainstem of meditation practitioners. These practitioners had practiced long-term meditation (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009).

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect the brain structures (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). They reported that the gray matter in the lower brain stem areas of the long-term meditation practitioners had higher density than those of the non-practitioners.

Such findings suggest that long-term meditation may result in changes in the brainstem areas that are related to cardiorespiratory regulations and functions (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Such changes may influence the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic functions and properties. These mechanisms may affect cognitive, emotional, and immunological functions.

Reference:

Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., van Beek, M., et al. (2009) Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem. Neuroreport 20, 170-174.

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