New studies continue to provide insite into the positive benifits of meditation on health and wellbeing. The latest study concentrates on analyzing the differences in brain function between a group of people who practice meditiation and those that do not. (The subjects — 28 men, 22 women — had a median age of 51 and had all been practicing meditation of various types for 20 years on average. The oldest subject was 71; the longest practitioner had been meditating regularly for 46 years.)
The results of meditation were noted to be an increased area of grey and white matter in the brain; literally inceasing brain function; while the calming benefits were found to ease complications of coronary arterial diseases.
The role that meditation plays in brain development has been the subject of several theories and a number of studies. One of them, conducted at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that long-term meditators like Ms. Splain had greater gyrification — a term that describes the folding of the cerebral cortex, the outermost part of the brain.
Published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal in February, the study is the latest effort from the U.C.L.A. lab to determine the extent to which meditation may affect neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. Previous studies found that the brains of long-term meditators had increased amounts of so-called gray and white matter (the former is believed to be involved in processing information; the latter is thought of as the “wiring” of the brain’s communication system.)
It follows other studies examining possible links between meditation and physical benefits. In 2009, for example, a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting suggested that the mental relaxation produced by meditation has physiological benefits for people with established coronary artery disease.
The U.C.L.A. study, like previous ones, is inconclusive but intriguing. “You could argue that more folds mean more neurons,” said Dr. Eileen Luders, the recent study’s lead author, who practices meditation herself. “These are the processing units of the brain, and so having more might mean that you have greater cognitive capacities.”
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