Meditation alters the physical structure of the brain
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A recently reported brain-scanning study has found evidence that sustained
meditation alters the physical structure of the brain by increasing the
thickness of the grey matter.
The researchers, led by neuroscientist Sarah Lazar, scanned the brains of 20
people with long-term experience of meditation, and compared them with 20
other, non-meditating people.
Brain regions associated with attention, sensation, perception and
monitoring the body's internal state were thicker in meditation participants
than in the comparison group.
There is now increasing evidence - in line with a 2000 study, that reported
that London Taxi drivers may have a larger hippocampus (an area of the brain
known to be crucial for navigation), that mental practice may alter the
brain's structure on a relatively large scale.
Update: Grabbed from the comments page... Some cautionary words on
interpreting 'cause' from this sort of study (Thanks 'Coffee Mug'!):
The only way to say that meditation can alter the structure of the brain
would be to do a longitudinal study following people who hadn't chosen to
meditate prior to the study. Otherwise you run into the same problem as you
did with the London cabbie study. Correlation is not causation. People born
with bigger hippocampi might self-select as cab-drivers. People with bigger
'attention centers' might be more predisposed to get into meditation.