Survive the End Days

Friday, November 18, 2011

Meditation & Brain

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy (MBSR) is a meditation program developed by John Kabat-Zinn and researchers at Harvard Medical School to help people living with chronic pain. Central to this form of meditation is a focus on the breath to bring the mind back to the present moment when it wanders off. Over time, this leads to greater conscious control over attentional focus, such that more primitive alarm responses are less able to control our thoughts and behaviors.The final goal of the meditation training is to integrate present-moment awareness into every aspect of daily life.
Research over the past 10 years or so has begun to show how meditation may change the brain and improve mental and physical well being.

picture of brain

Improved Immune Response

A 2003 study by Richard Davidson and colleagues, with healthy employees, showed that 8 weeks of meditation practice changed the pattern of electrical activity in the brain. There was greater activation in the left hemisphere among meditators than people assessed at the same time who did not have meditation training (control group). The researchers also looked at immune response to an influenza vaccine and found that the meditator group had more antibody titers to the vaccine than the control group, indicating better immune functioning. These benefits lasted for months after the intervention.

Changes in the Brain's Grey Matter

A more recent controlled study showed that meditation was associated with increased grey matter in the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory, and decreased grey matter in the amygdala, which is the initiator of the brain's pre-cortical alarm system. These physiological changes parallel the theory that meditation increases conscious control over emotional, behavioral, and attentional response to threat.

Reduced Pain Sensitivity

Researchers are also beginning to show that meditation can change the way we experience pain. Chris Brown and colleagues at the University of Manchester showed that a Mindfulness Meditation course led to less unusual activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex when subjects expected to receive a painful stimulus (such as a small elecric shock or contact with a hot object). Those who meditated reported finding the pain less unpleasant as well.

Shift From Negative to Positive Affect

Patients in another mindfulness study demonstrated significantly greater changes in brain electrical activity from activation in the right to the left cortical  hemisphere, from before to immediately following meditation and several months later, compared to a control group. This pattern of brain activity is associated with a shift away from negative and towards more positive emotional experience. In other words, mindfulness meditation regimen appeared to help people to experience more positive emotions such as love, compassion, or contentment.

Does a Briefer Intervention Work?

One reason why people resist meditating is the time it takes. The original protocol involved eight weeks of mindfulness training sessions plus 45 minutes a day of at-home practice. At the beginning, many people find it difficult to sustain attention on the breath for that length of time. Logistical and time considerations make patients more hesitant to sign up or result in dropout. A briefer intervention that could be used more widely in hospital, employee wellness, and outpatient mental health settings might be more cost-effective and palatable to patients.

A very recent study published in the journal Psychological Science shows that a briefer meditation protocol cal produce similar changes in cortical activity. Researcher Christopher Moyer and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Stout assigned subjects at random to either a 5-week Mindfulness Meditation group or to a group put on a waiting list for services. Data showed people in the meditation group practiced at home a couple of times a week for about 25 minutes each time, on average. These meditation subjects showed the same changes in cortical activity as those who got the full intervention in earlier studies; that is, a significant increase in left hemisphere cortical activation. The waiting list group did not demonstrate these changes. This is an exciting finding, since it suggests even shorter meditation periods can significantly increase positive emotional experience in the brain.

Below are some instructions for a basic breath awareness meditation. Do this once or twice a day for 2 weeks and observe what happens. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Try to accept whatever your individual experience is.

Simple Breath Awareness Meditation Instructions

  • Pick a comfortable, quiet place where you will not be disturbed
  • Sit with the spine upright on a cushion on the floor or a chair. If you use a chair, make sure your feet are touching the ground.
  • Begin to notice your breathing. Try to maintain an open and curious attitude. Notice where the breath goes when it enters and leaves your body.
  • Do not try to change the breath in any way. It may change naturally as you observe it.
  • If your mind wanders away, note what it is doing, than gently bring your attention back to the breath.
  •  Continue observing the breath for 15-20 minutes.


  1. The growing popularity of meditation or awareness techniques in modern health intervention strategies is proof of all that you have written about. You have built up a very comprehensive blog about meditation. Congratulations. Your work is truly a step towards value creation and global peace and harmony. All the best as you go about creating positive and beneficial causes for yourself and the people whose lives you touch.

  2. Whenever I research a subject I have no clue what i might find. I'm so very happy to have discovered your thorough blogging as it perfectly addresses the doubts I have in mind and also the unspoken concerns which i would have checked for in the future MEDITATION.

    1. meditation has enormus potential..enfact its the only way do dissovle your past karmas & get rid of the Samsara (cylce of birth & death) & get into the Nirvana!

  3. Meditation is very effective for your brain and body. It has the power to erase your all stress, worries and thoughts. It provides you positive energy with relax-full mind. You may also know about it by follow the way -

    1. Meditation awakens passive part of the brain as human beings are using only 2-4% of tehir brain capability. Meditation improves that faculty.

  4. At first it was hard work, my mind refused to cooperate and enter 'Stillness', phone bills, arguments, annoying conversations floated through my head like a steam of muck. But, I persisted for many months, until slowly, the beast leaned to shut up, at least for a while.

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  5. It is a very useful post about the Sleep Meditation.Thanks,I appreciate your sharing this!