Psychology Today reports on a study that indicates that meditators have more gray matter where it counts:
A study published in NeuroImage presents findings by a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of meditators. The researchers report having found differences between the scans, showing that certain brain areas of the long-term meditator group were larger than those of the non-meditating control group. Meditators displayed a significantly larger volume of hippocampal tissue, as well as a similarly increased volume of tissue in the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus. All of these areas are recognized as playing a role in emotional regulation.
In these areas, at least, size matters:
Eileen Luders, principal author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging stated, “We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and [to] engage in mindful behavior,” adding, “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue [as to] why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”
I’m always interested to know what neuroscientists have to say about meditation, but if ever they discover that it also has negative side effects, it’s not as if I’ll stop meditating. One positive effect of all this study, though, is that meditation becomes ever more acceptable—and desirable—to the mainstream. That can’t be a bad thing.