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Meditation altars brain structure

User Thread
 33yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that mindfields19 is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Meditation altars brain structure
an interesting article I found:

Scans of Monks' Brains Show Meditation Alters Structure, Functioning -- SCIENCE JOURNAL By SHARON BEGLEY - November 5, 2004

All of the Dalai Lama's guests peered intently at the brain scan projected onto screens at either end of the room, but what different guests they were.

On one side sat five neuroscientists, united in their belief that physical processes in the brain can explain all the wonders of the mind, without appeal to anything spiritual or nonphysical.

Facing them sat dozens of Tibetan Buddhist monks in burgundy-and-saffron robes, convinced that one round-faced young man in their midst is the reincarnation of one of the Dalai Lama's late teachers, that another is the reincarnation of a 12th-century monk, and that the entity we call "mind" is not, as neuroscience says, just a manifestation of the brain.

It was not, in other words, your typical science meeting.

But although the Buddhists and scientists who met for five days last month in the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, had different views on the little matters of reincarnation and the relationship of mind to brain, they set them aside in the interest of a shared goal. They had come together in the shadows of the Himalayas to discuss one of the hottest topics in brain science: neuroplasticity.

The term refers to the brain's recently discovered ability to change its structure and function, in particular by expanding or strengthening circuits that are used and by shrinking or weakening those that are rarely engaged. In its short history, the science of neuroplasticity has mostly documented brain changes that reflect physical experience and input from the outside world. In pianists who play many arpeggios, for instance, brain regions that control the index finger and middle finger become fused, apparently because when one finger hits a key in one of these fast-tempo movements, the other does so almost simultaneously, fooling the brain into thinking the two fingers are one. As a result of the fused brain regions, the pianist can no longer move those fingers independently of one another.

Lately, however, scientists have begun to wonder whether the brain can change in response to purely internal, mental signals. That's where the Buddhists come in. Their centuries-old tradition of meditation offers a real-life experiment in the power of those will-o'-the-wisps, thoughts, to alter the physical matter of the brain.

"Of all the concepts in modern neuroscience, it is neuroplasticity that has the greatest potential for meaningful interaction with Buddhism," says neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Dalai Lama agreed, and he encouraged monks to donate (temporarily) their brains to science.

The result was the scans that Prof. Davidson projected in Dharamsala. They compared brain activity in volunteers who were novice meditators to that of Buddhist monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation. The task was to practice "compassion" meditation, generating a feeling of loving kindness toward all beings.

"We tried to generate a mental state in which compassion permeates the whole mind with no other thoughts," says Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Katmandu, Nepal, who holds a Ph.D. in genetics.

In a striking difference between novices and monks, the latter showed a dramatic increase in high-frequency brain activity called gamma waves during compassion meditation. Thought to be the signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung brain circuits, gamma waves underlie higher mental activity such as consciousness. The novice meditators "showed a slight increase in gamma activity, but most monks showed extremely large increases of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature," says Prof. Davidson, suggesting that mental training can bring the brain to a greater level of consciousness.

Using the brain scan called functional magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists pinpointed regions that were active during compassion meditation. In almost every case, the enhanced activity was greater in the monks' brains than the novices'. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity. A sprawling circuit that switches on at the sight of suffering also showed greater activity in the monks. So did regions responsible for planned movement, as if the monks' brains were itching to go to the aid of those in distress.

"It feels like a total readiness to act, to help," recalled Mr. Ricard.

read more

This is so amazing to me. I have been an avid fan of meditation for a few years now. I try to meditate a few times a week. It is amazing how much difference it can make in your mental health (for me, anyway). I would love to find out if it is affecting my brain at all, or if it will in the future.

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"In the beginning, night was memory was water, and in the cool aquamarine depths dreams swam freely."
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
That article is interesting indeed. Meditation cultivates health and longetivity. Meditation clears the mind, minimizses desire, rids of stress, balances emotions and circulates energy (among many other things). I practice Tao meditation, yet not as much as I would wish to.

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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 33yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that mindfields19 is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
It is fascinating, isn't it? It gives a person hope... This idea may be out there, but what if these results of deep meditation were the first steps to a new level of emotional evolution?

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"In the beginning, night was memory was water, and in the cool aquamarine depths dreams swam freely."
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Interesting thought mindfields. However, evolution only occurs within a population, not within an individual. Meditation is an individual practice.

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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 33yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that mindfields19 is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Meditation is an individual practice that is being practiced by more and more individuals every year. If not a human evolution, certainly an environmenal one. At least, meditation practiced by larger numbers of people could change the way we view and treat what we already have.

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"In the beginning, night was memory was water, and in the cool aquamarine depths dreams swam freely."
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Decius- mutation is only one of the 5 agents of evolutionary change. The other agents are genetic drift, gene flow, non- random mating and natural selection. In this case of meditation, mutations are irrelevent. If spiritual evolution would happen it would occur through the mechanisms of gene flow and natural selection.

The practice of meditation is a behavioural trait that has evolved in certain human sub-groups over time (such as in southern and eastern Asian human populations). However I am yet to find any study showing whether meditation can alter emotional evolution. So at the moment, all I can state is that evolution only occurs within a population.


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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 33yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that mindfields19 is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Evolution may not be the correct term for those of us with a superbly technical frame of mind (summit, dear ). The word progression may make the point a bit clearer.

A mental and moral progression could be the product of a population more inclined to meditate on a regular basis over an extended period of time. The article notes on the difference in high-frequency brain activity between monks and "novices." I found this especially interesting because its proof of at least base change in brain activity in those who have devoted much of their lives to meditation.

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"In the beginning, night was memory was water, and in the cool aquamarine depths dreams swam freely."
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Decius: the reason why I mentioned the different agents of evolution was because I assumed you thought that mutations were the cause of evolution regarding meditation (or emotional evolution). And therefore I further corrected your statement.

I agree that the physiology of the individual human is altered when the brain evolves as a consequence of thorough meditation practices. Which is indeed very interesting. However it is apparent that a study revealing changes within a valid population would not be reliable yet, considering these brain changes only significantly occur within the small proportion of buddhist monks (which is in itself a small population at the moment). This study described in the article, could very well be measured across a larger proportion of people who meditate at similar levels around the world. Which would be even more interesting.

Our physical characteristics regarding structure and function are certainly not diminishing (except for some structures such as the appendix). However out of any structure/function of the body, our brain has evolved the most.


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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Decius: it seems your a tad confused. To be specific- I was correcting your generalisation. Claiming that this study is representative of the human population (or at least a larger population) is incorrect. I was correcting you, in mentioning that this study has a limitation. The limitation is that evolution only occurs within a valid population and that these brain changes (within the monks) have only occured within the small proportion of buddhist monks (which is in itself a small population at the moment).

Small developmental changes (in this case- in the brains of monks) are not defined as evolutionary, unless it affects a larger population, over significant time. Evolutionary changes do not occur within an individual life-span. Evolutionary changes occur over several generations (sometimes thousands of years). These changes also only occur within a specific confined geographical area. Understand now?

So inorder for these developmental brain changes to occur, one factor has to occur- meditation. Meditation is a behavioural lifestyle technique, it is not a genetic factor.

I'm not arguing against the article, I was simply correcting your statements.

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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
That is fair enough Decius. I only assumed that you were claiming that this study is representative of the human population rather than an opinion. The information regarding evolution, is rather important in reference to the study.

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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 36yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Wyote is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
do people who meditate lose individuality? is this neccissary for an evolution among humans in ths fashion?

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"A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. - Thomas Carlyle"
 33yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that mindfields19 is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I think that really depends on the person as an individual to begin with. If a person jumps into meditation because it's the new kaballah bracelet, they are losing their individuality. I do not think that people that pick up meditation for the purpose of gaining peace and clarity of mind fall into the same catagory.

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"In the beginning, night was memory was water, and in the cool aquamarine depths dreams swam freely."
 36yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Wyote is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
very good points. for me individuality and conformity are exact opposites, perhaps my thoughts are skewed. also, my own perception of conformity is quite negative, as is most peoples that i have encountered.

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"A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. - Thomas Carlyle"
 34yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that summit is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
quote:
do people who meditate lose individuality?

Not necessarily. Sometimes meditation is the key to discover and develop our individuality .

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"The summit is just a halfway point"
 29yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that deifiedslacker is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
don't you mean alters?

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"I had the right to remain silent but I did not have the ability."
Meditation altars brain structure
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