Researchers discover how brain works during meditation
Scientists from the University of Osio in Norway say they have a clearer idea of how brain activity changes when someone is in a state of meditation.
The new study adds to the growing international research on meditation, which reflects the increasing popularity of meditation—a practice believed to help reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.
The researchers focused on two main types of meditation—nondirective meditation, which focuses on breathing or on a meditation sound and allows the person’s mind to wander—and concentrative meditation, which focuses on breathing or on certain thoughts, which blocks out other thoughts. Fourteen participants were recruited, all of whom were highly experienced in meditation. The researchers conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while the participants practiced one nondirective and one concentrative technique and also when they were resting.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, showed that while the participants practiced nondirective meditation, they had higher brain activity in areas related to emotions and self-related thoughts than they did when they were resting. While the participants practiced concentrative meditation, their brain activity was about the same as it was when they were resting.
The researchers concluded that the brain seems to be better able to process memories and emotions during nondirective meditation than it is during concentrative meditation.
Said neuroscientist Svend Davanger, one of the researchers: "This area of the brain has its highest activity when we rest. It represents a kind of basic operating system, a resting network that takes over when external tasks do not require our attention. It is remarkable that a mental task like nondirective meditation results in even higher activity in this network than regular rest."