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FIVE WAYS THAT MINDFULNESS CHANGES YOUR BRAIN

FIVE WAYS THAT MINDFULNESS CHANGES YOUR BRAIN

Mindfulness physicially changes your brain, in areas associated with reduced stress, better memory and improved cognitive ability. And it's free...what's not to like?

Here goes:

1) Mindfulness practice changes the structure of your brain. This is shown by a large and growing body of evidence based on MRI brain scans, which compare people that have undertaken mindfulness courses with those that have not.

There is uncertainty about what the relative impact is of meditation versus the experience of being more aware of the present moment and how these two elements alter different parts of the brain, but this much is clear: mindfulness physically changes your brain.

2) One part of the brain to show reduced activity among mindfulness practitioners in a number of studies is the amygdala. This is a part of the brain that seems to control our fight or flight response to stressors.

It is described by neuroscientist and author Antonio Damaso as a “triggering site for fear.” Several studies suggest that smaller amygdala volumes reflect the fact that mindful individuals have a reduced response to stress.

3) More specifically, mindfulness is associated with reduced activity in the right amygdala, according to one recent controlled study.

Although nothing in the brain is understood with crystal clarity, current evidence suggests that the right amygdala is where our aggregated response is compiled to the various inputs we receive, including visual stimuli. This may help explain how mindfulness renders us more resilient against stress.

4) The hippocampus is subject to increased activation during meditation, according to several studies.

The hippocampus plays a fundamental role in learning new facts and recalling memories. This is well understood from people who have suffered injuries to their hippocampi and are unable to process either new facts or the recollection of old memories. This may suggest that mindfulness improves cognitive function and, specifically, our ability to process memories.

5) Regular mindfulness practitioners may also experience an increase in their cortical thickness, according to some studies. What this refers to is the thickness of different layers in the cerebral cortex. This is one of the core components of the brain, described by Damaso as having a role in constructing the “maps that become mind….the cortex helps generate the core self……(it) constructs our biography….(and) provides us with an identity and places us at the center of the wondrous, forward-moving spectacle that is our conscious mind.” So, quite important then.

The thickness of layers in the cerebral cortex is regarded as an indication of cognitive ability.

References

If you’re interested in delving deeper into the evidence, a lot of is cited in this study from May 2013:

You can read the article here

The quotes from Antonio Damaso on the role of different parts of the brain are taken from his book ‘Self Comes to Mind, Constructing the Conscious Brain’, published in 2010.

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Thursday, 17 October 2019
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