It has been known for a while that people who are long time meditators have larger brains, and more grey matter than those who do not. Scientists have always said the amount of grey matter one has is an indication of level of intellect. Grey matter is the main composition of the central nervous system, and is where most of our neurons that play a role in the relay of information. But grey matter is not responsible for intellect, but it includes the important mechanisms to do with muscle control, and sensory perception including the memory.
Generally we have been told for years that the brain shrinks with age, but more and more scientists are discovering there is more to a human being than previously believed.
The U.S. UCLA Laboratory of Neuro-Imaging recently found that those who have meditated for a long time have greater brain connectivity, which more connection between different parts of the brain, and their brains are less likely to shrink due to age. This is a good indication of how little we use our brains because it means humans do have a greater capacity to relay signals at a faster rate throughout the brain. This corresponds to spiritual premises like:
“If one’s consciousness is low, then your universe is very small.” – Mahendra Kumar Trivedi
There is a big difference in the person whose attention is the limited self, and the possessions that sustain the limited self including those we love and hate because they are reflections or non-reflective of the limited self.
To explore the subject further, UCLA applied diffusion tensor imaging, DTI, which provides further insights into the connectivity of the brain like it is not just a part of the brain that differs from those who meditate, and those who do not, but also whole networks from the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, the anterior corpus callosum, the limbic structures and the brain stem. Visiting assistant professor, Eileen Luders described:
“Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain,”
“We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.”
White matter is found in deep parts of the brain, and in the spinal cord. It is the tissue through which information is passed between different areas of the grey matter. White matter is associated with mechanical learning or practical skills including language.
The greatest difference between long time meditators, and the control group was the group of axons between the cerebral cortex of the brain, the spinal cord, and those which connect the back and the front of the cerebrum, as well as parts of the limbic systems, the hippocampus, and the amygdala in relation to the frontal cortex.
“Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain at large. Collecting evidence that active, frequent and regular meditation practices cause alterations of white-matter fiber tracts that are profound and sustainable may become relevant for patient populations suffering from axonal demyelination and white-matter atrophy.”
It just goes to show how far we have understood based on the limitations w have set ourselves.
Eileen Luders, Kristi Clark, Katherine L. Narr, Arthur W. Toga. Enhanced Brain Connectivity in Long-Term Meditation Practitioners. NeuroImage, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.05.075