Science is just now getting glimpses of the tremendous power of meditation to completely change the entire body-mind structure itself. The benefits of meditation are countless and across all planes – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Meditation can simply change the very quality of life.
Until recently, it was believed that in the brain, the connections among the brain nerve cells were fixed in childhood and did not change, so the brain growth stopped early in life. Now scientists are finding that the brain actually grows and forms new connections all throughout life. Scientists call this ability neuroplasticity.
The other day I was reading in the papers (Washington Post, January 3, 2005), about research done by the University of Wisconsin to study the effects of
meditation on the brain. The study was done on a group of Tibetan monks who had been meditating for years, and also on a group of students who were new to meditation but had been taught how to meditate. They found that the awareness was more and the brain activity was faster and much better organized and coordinated in the meditating monks than in the students who were new to meditation. Not only that, the brain region associated with happiness, positive thoughts and emotions, was also much more active in the monks than in the students. One more important thing, the researchers found that the brain activity of the meditator monks was more intense and organized than that of the students, even before the monks started meditating. So the benefits of meditation are actually permanent. Meditation can simply change the very circuitry and the inner workings of the brain.
Many top universities in the USA like Yale, Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), have also studied the effects of meditation. Studies using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) showed that meditation actually increased the very thickness of the brain in areas related to awareness and attention, as well as cognitive processing and emotional wellbeing. The researchers found that the blood vessels become wider, the support structures also increase in number and they have more branches and connections
There was another research done at the University of Kentucky where they studied the effects of sleepiness on a person’s awareness. A group of people was made to look at a screen and they were supposed to press a button as soon as an image came on the screen. Normally a person who has had less sleep takes much longer to respond to the image than a person who has had normal sleep. Sometimes they even completely miss seeing the image coming up. The researchers tested the participants before and after forty minutes of sleep, meditation, reading or some light activity. They found that with meditation, the response was the fastest for every single participant, even though the participants were not experienced in meditation. In fact, their response was even better after keeping awake the whole night!
There have been many studies to learn the effect of meditation on the speed and correctness of perception and response. A couple of studies were done at Liverpool John Moores University in Liverpool, England. In one study, the participants were given lines of letters with different numbers of dashes marked above the letters. They had to cross out the letters with multiple dashes, as quickly as possible. In another study, the participants were shown the words like ‘RED’, ‘BLUE’ or ‘GREEN’ printed in different colored inks. They had to quickly name the color of the ink the word was written in. Normally, this is difficult because your brain tends to read the word rather than look and identify the color of the ink that the word is written in! They found that the meditators were much faster and made about half the number of errors as the non-meditators. Meditation directly and significantly improves awareness, attention, memory, concentration, response time, visualization, emotional wellbeing, and general health.
Western science has just started exploring the vast dimensions of the effects and benefits of meditation that the inner scientists of the East have researched and lived for thousands of years. The vedic culture rests on these spiritual truths and sciences. Because of it, man has enjoyed the benefits of meditation, the ultimate way to the Ultimate! It is a foolproof, time- proven technique to realize oneself.
source: Living Enlightenment