Meditation and the Brain: A New Frontier in Science

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

During the first 20 years of a person’s life, the brain is developing circuits that will last a lifetime. Yet certain unhealthy lifestyle factors can inhibit normal brain development in adolescents and lead to impaired judgment and impulsive behavior that carries over into adulthood. Recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience have found that brain function can be significantly improved after early adulthood or at any age through the practice of meditation.

When our brain is healthy, all the different areas work together—the different parts pertaining to senses, emotions, mental performance and decision making are all well ‘integrated.’ Brain integration is important because ones environment and circumstances are constantly changing; you need a healthy, integrated brain to evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and determine the steps to get there. This critical evaluation of information takes place in the frontal lobes of the brain or the association cortex. The frontal cortex does not receive information directly from the outside, but puts together what is brought in through hearing, seeing, touch, etc. The frontal lobes are like a conductor who oversees the different musicians in an orchestra and integrates them all together in concert.

Stress affects the brain

Stressful experiences such as alcohol and drug abuse, growing up in a broken home, living in fear of violence and crime, or even a bad diet can keep the frontal lobes from developing. According to leading brain researcher Dr. Fred Travis, “when a person’s frontal lobes don’t develop, he lives a primitive life. He can’t—and doesn’t—plan ahead. His world is simplistic, and he can only deal with what’s happening to him right now.” Thinking becomes rigid: ‘You’re either with me or against me,’ or ‘Me and my gang are good, and everyone else is bad.’

Can the brain change?

Fortunately, the brain is always changing through a lifetime of experiences. No matter what experiences may have happened in the past that have shut down brain circuits, the brain can be changed by specific new experiences, such as deep transcending during meditation. Research on the Transcendental Meditation technique has found that during TM practice there is more integrated functioning in the frontal areas of the brain. Dr. Travis reports, “Within two or three months of practice of the TM technique, we begin to see high levels of integration of frontal brain connectivity. And interestingly, that integration does not disappear after TM practice. Increasingly and over time, this orderly brain functioning is found in daily activity.”

During this meditative state, one experiences a unique state of silence and inner wakefulness without particular qualities or attributes. According to the research, this experience creates a more integrated functioning in the frontal areas of the brain. [1] “The Transcendental Meditation technique is unique in its ability to exercise this critical part of the brain—to make the brain healthier and able to function together as a whole,” says Dr. Travis.

As thousands of at-risk students are learning the TM technique in schools around the world, researchers are finding that TM practice improves learning ability, [2] memory, [3] creativity [4] and IQ [5]. Findings such as these opens a new frontier in what was thought to be possible for brain functioning and for human development.

1. International Journal of Psychophysiology,Feb 24, 2009

2. British Journal of Educational Psychology 55: 164–166, 1985.

3. Scientific Research on the TM Program: Collected Papers Vol 1: 385–392, 1977.

4. The Journal of Creative Behavior 13: 169–180, 1979.

5. Development of Intelligence—Increased IQ in University Students. Personality and Individual Differences 12: 1105–1116, 1991.


About Author

Leave A Reply