The Yoga Addiction

63: Meditation, Mindfullness and Brain Gray Matter

The Yoga Addiction
63: Meditation, Mindfullness and Brain Gray Matter
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Meditation is such a hot topic these days, and for good reason. It's been shown to improve attention span, decrease stress and anxiety. New science is showing that meditation also changes the content of our brains, its gray matter. In today's episode, we discuss the results of a number of studies done on meditation and the brain. Then, we discuss the potential for asana to also have a positive effect on the gray matter of the brain. Resources are linked in the show notes! Enjoy.

 

// IN THIS EPISODE //

 

  • We get into one of our final episodes, and it's going to be about how meditation changes the brain (7:50)
  • What is gray matter? (9:20)
  • Nat dives into the results of Sara Lazer's study (13:44)
  • We go over her results: more gray matter in the sensory areas and prefrontal cortex (working memory and executive decision making) (16:10)
  • Why we want more brain matter as we age (17:04)
  • Another study by Lazer showed that the brains of 50-year-old long-time meditators looked like 25-year-old brains (18:34)
  • A before-and-after study with people who had never meditated before. The results (21:34):
    1) A difference in the posterior cingulate related to mind wandering and self-relevance
    2) The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
    3) The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
    4) An area of the brain stem called the pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.
    5) The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
  • You re-grow every nerve cell in your brain by the time you're 50; that's about 700 new nerve cells a day (37:20)
  • What happens to the brain when it comes to the physical asana practice? (38:53)
  • Nitric Oxide may increase in the body after meditation (helps oxygenate the body) (50:19)

 

// RESOURCES & LINKS //

 

YouTube video on Gray Matter

Sara Lazer's work summarized by Washington Post

Article with links to 4 studies about meditation and brain changes or changes in genetics

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