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Is there any scientific proof that meditating does anything?

Sunday, April 1st, 2012 lakeside

In a word? Yes.

In 2 words. Hell yes.

Here’s one example.

The lovely (and I’m sure very smart) people at Harvard Business School found that “regular meditation can alter the structure of our brains.” In a good way.

Here’s an explanation straight out of “On the Brain” which is the newsletter Harvard Mahoney Institute Neuroscience Letter.

A team led by Sara Lazar, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor in psychology at HMS, found that meditation increased thickness in the regions of the brain associated with attention and processing sensory input. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Dr. Lazar’s group assessed the thickness of the cerebral cortex in 20 participants with extensive experience in insight meditation, a form of meditation that focuses attention on internal experiences.

While previous research with monks has demon- strated that long-term meditation may lead to altered brain wave patterns, Dr. Lazar’s team hypo- thesized that long-term meditation practice might also result in changes in the brain’s physical struc- ture, possibly reflecting increased use of specific brain regions. In fact, they found that brain regions associated with attention, interoception (sensitivity to stimuli originating inside the body), and sensory processing were thicker in the meditation partici- pants than they were in matched controls. These areas included the prefrontal cortex, which is respon- sible for planning complex cognitive behaviors, and the right anterior insula, which is associated with bodily sensations and emotions.

“As predicted,” says Dr. Lazar, “the brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in the controls. These findings provide the first evidence that alterations in brain structure are associated with meditation practice.”

See? I told you.

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