Four scientifically proven benefits of meditation

Meditation In order to placate my biomedical and scientific background I decided to do a bit of research into the effects of meditation. This is what I found.   Meditation speeds up brain processing potential  According to a study carried out in 2012 in a journal called the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience it was found that 50 meditators had improved cortical gyrification compared to 50 controls. Cortical gyrification is the degree of cortical folding that allows the brain to process faster. Cortical gyrification also seemed to be more pronounced in long-term meditators, compared to non-meditators. Increased gyrification of the cortex may reflect an integration of cognitive processes when meditating, as meditation is commonly introspective and contemplative. Despite finding the link between meditation and cortical gyrification it was suggested by the study that future research should aim to define this link in more depth.   Meditation decreases feelings of anxiety  Gladding (2013) explains in her article published in Psychology Today that the brain functions better with meditation, and this is enhanced with increased times spent in this meditative state. She notes that regular meditation can “loosen” our neural pathways, particularly the pathways between the fear centre and the “Me” centre (which is the place the brain constantly reflects back to you). When this pathway is “loosened” it has been found that feelings of anxiety can be lessened and new neural pathways which include improved assessment and empathetic responses can be created. Note: Gladding makes a point of saying that you must keep up meditation because “the brain can very easily revert back to its old ways if you are not vigilant”.   Meditation reduces psychosocial stress and the risk of heart disease  A large scientific study was carried out in 2012 which was published in the Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes supports the above statement. 201 people with coronary heart disease (>50% arterial stenosis) were randomly allocated to a health education class promoting improved diet and exercise, or to take a class on transcendental meditation. These participants were followed for five years. The results were astonishing. Participants who chose the meditation class had 48% reduction to the overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Meditation was found to significantly lower blood pressure and anger scores more so than the health education class. There was also evidence to support a dose-response effect between regularity of meditation practice and longer survival. In other words, when subjects practiced meditation regularly they had a 66% reduction to overall risk of mortality, stroke and heart attack.   Meditation improves mental productivity  In 2013, Harvard University carried out a study that showed that those that meditated could screen out distractions and increase productivity better than those who didn’t. By screening out distractions it is proven that we have more space for our brains to integrate new information. Meditation caused subjects to use alpha brain wave patterns more effectively. This slight change in brain waves can dramatically aid in memory recall. Interestingly, the same study noted that meditation may be the key to help ease off dependency on pharmaceutical drugs and “help people better regulate a brain rhythm that is deregulated in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions”.   Sources   1) http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00034/full 2) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation 3) http://circoutcomes.ahajournals.org/content/5/6/750.full.pdf+html 4) http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/23/meditations-effects-on-emotion-shown-to-persist/56372.html