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This might already be obvious to enlightened souls, but researchers are discovering that meditation may permanently change the physical structure of the brain. Neural circuits linked to focus, happiness and empathy may be strengthened through long-term meditation, effectively rewiring the brain and “lighting up” certain regions with a life-long capability for stronger activity in those regions, scans have indicated. “If you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in predictable ways,” explains researcher Richard Davidson. “Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different.”
Changes include ramped-up activation of a section of the brain thought to be responsible for generating positive emotions, called the left-sided anterior region. Monks who have meditated some 10,000 hours demonstrated significantly more activity in their limbic systems—the brain’s emotional network—than even novice meditators, indicating that their mind’s empathy “muscle” was vastly stronger than the average Individual’s. The Dalai Lama has sent monks to various US universities for meditation. study. “This is not a project about religion,” Davidson told CNN. “Meditation is mental activity that could be understood in secular terms.”
“This is a field that has been populated by true believers,” says Emory University scientist Charles Raison, who has studied meditation’s effect on the immune system. “Many of the people doing this research are trying to prove scientifically what they already know from experience, which is a major flaw.”
But Davidson says that other types of scientists also have deep personal interest in what they’re studying. And he argues that that’s a good thing.
“There’s a cadre of grad students and post docs who’ve found personal value in meditation and have been inspired to study it scientifically,” Davidson says. “These are people at the very best universities and they want to do this for a career.
“In ten years,” he says, “we’ll find that meditation research has become mainstream.”Click here for reuse options!