Scientists have previously studied the differences in brain structure of people who practice meditation and those who don’t meditate.
The anterior cingulated is a brain region that helps to regulate emotions and behaviour. The subjects in the experiment reported improved mood changes and also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than students in the control group.
According to researchers, changes to locations of the brain described as self-regulatory areas suggests integrative body-mind training could help patients suffering from mental disorders, perhaps with as little as 11 hours a month of meditation.
Many mental illnesses kind of show a lack of self-regulation, for example addictions; for example schizophrenia and borderline personality [disorder]," they explain. "If those disorders show a lack of self-regulation and you can do something to strengthen self-regulation, then perhaps you can prevent or ameliorate these types of mental problems associated with self-regulation."
Indeed, as much of the research is showing, meditation causes the brain to undergo physical changes, many of which are beneficial. Other studies, for example, have shown that meditation is linked to cortical thickness, which can result in decreased sensitivity to pain.
The integrity of gray matter, which is a major player in the central nervous system, certainly appears to benefit. Meditation has been linked to larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter, resulting in more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behavior (heightened focus during day-to-day living). Meditation has also been shown to have neuroprotective attributes; it can diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce cognitive decline.
But it’s not just the physical and chemical components of the brain that’s affected by meditation. Neuroscientists have documented the way it impacts on brain activity itself. For example, meditation has been associated with decreased activity in default mode network activity and connectivity — those undesirable brain functions responsible for lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, ADHD — and even the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.