Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain

Harvard study showing how meditation not only reduces stress, but also changes your brain.

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:

Q: Why did you start looking at meditation and mindfulness and the brain?

Lazar: A friend and I were training for the Boston marathon. I had some running injuries, so I saw a physical therapist who told me to stop running and just stretch. So I started practicing yoga as a form of physical therapy. I started realizing that it was very powerful, that it had some real benefits, so I just got interested in how it worked….

Q: What did you find?

Lazar: We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups. In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:

1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.

2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.

3.  The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.

4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.

The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.

Click here to read the study

 

Lynn Hellerstein
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Lynn Hellerstein

Developmental optometrist, author, speaker at Hellerstein and Brenner Vision Center
A pioneer in vision therapy and developmental optometry, for more than 30 years Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, has helped thousands of children and adults improve their vision and transform their lives — at home, in the classroom and on the sports field.
Founder and co-owner of Hellerstein & Brenner Vision Center, Dr. Lynn Hellerstein is the author of an award-winning book series, SEE IT. SAY IT.DO IT!
Dynamic and engaging, Dr. Hellerstein is a popular speaker nationally and internationally.
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