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Grow your brain by meditating

Grow your brain by meditating

One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory. Sara Lazar, a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, presented preliminary results last November that showed that the gray matter of 20 men and women who meditated for just 40 minutes a day was thicker than that of people who did not.

From TIME.com: How to Get Smarter, One Breath at a Time.

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  • The article reminds me of Steven Johnson’s book, Mind Wide Open, which describes some intriguing experiments on neurofeedback concrentation games, that hook up with your brain’s wave states. The objective is to get an object to move, for example, by simply concentrating. The concentration is then manifested by certain brain waves and the game is programmed so that the object moves whenever you are deeply concentrated.

    By playing the game you can train your attention directly (insofar as these waves represent the state of concentration). And they do measure it quite accurately. They are rather rough measures, of course, but Johnson himself describes the experience of playing these games quite intensive and concrete. It’s not often that you can directly play with your concentration. Usually, when you’re concentrated, you are not aware of the concentration itself.

  • Meditation is definitely good for you, in all manner of ways. I’m just not sure I can keep it going for 40 mins without falling asleep. I find that I get into such a state of relaxation, I just want to sleep!

  • After having flirted a little with meditation I decided to bite the bullet and booked to spend 4 days at a meditation retreat centre. This entailed complete silence for the 4 days and around 8 hours a day of meditation in various forms! I recognise what Samborera is saying in that I was really battling against falling asleep for the first day. However, this wasn’t an issue for the next 3 days. I guess if you are mildly sleep deprived (as most of us are) and then relax quietly, your body tries to grab the opportunity to catch up on sleep.

    There is another mention of the Lazar research here: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8317 that talks about the specific areas of the brain that are developed and puts up the idea that meditation trains the brain to focus attention. My own limited experience, for what it’s worth, was that initially all sorts of thoughts about recent history and short term plans would keep popping into my mind. Over the course of the retreat, this happened less and less often. Towards the end, the thoughts that did come up were not short term rubbish but tended to be about much longer term themes and questions about where my life was going and could be going. I came away from the retreat with much clearer and very different ideas as to what I should be doing. And feeling rather alienated by the way people around me got very excited/frustrated about trivial stuff.

    It took about two weeks to return to business as usual. I can’t seem to maintain that level of clarity with just the odd 20 minute meditation, so I guess I’d better sort my life out and make more time for it!

    Brilliant, insightful articles by the way. Please keep them coming!

  • One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of eating fat and sugar thickened the parts of the body’s organs responsible for energy making, release and storage. T. Hin, a research scientist at Planctons General Hospital, presented preliminary results last November that showed that the skin of 20 men and women who ate for just 40 minutes a day was thicker than that of people who did not.


  • There seem to be two different kinds of meditation with, apparently, different effects on the mind.

    The one this article talks about is meditating while concentrating on only one thing. Like your breathing or a picture or some kind of special box. This seems to be the version that grows parts of the neo cortex. The effect is that you “clear your RAM” of distracting thoughts and you’re able to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s actually really down to earth: you excersize your muscles, your muscles become better and move more smoothly. You excersize your concentration and your concentration becomes better.

    Clearing your RAM is also the goal of David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”. But he “clears the RAM” by organizing your to-do list into seperate categories and he’s a productivity coach for fortune 500 CEOs. Weird, but there seems to be a connection.

    The other kind of meditation I don’t know about, yet, but it was about to read this book that was going to explain it:

    Mindfulness in Plain English

    But just as I was reading the introduction, something made me come here to check on dirtsimple.org ‘s blog.

    The blogger here was talking about ways of thinking in his article “The Refactored Self part-1” where he talked about seperation of his “me” and his “myself” where the “me” was able to hack “tags” onto the ideas that came bubbling out of his subconcious and send those ideas back into his unconcious for execution or just incorporation of the right way of thinking about things.

    The introduction of the book that I linked above also talked about the seperation of your thoughts and the emotional parts of your brain.

    First my own experiences with “getting it” then this blog, then the article about meditation growing parts of the neo-cortex (the logical thinking part of the brain), then the book that I linked.

    I came upon these things in the same order as the dirtsimple.org guy.

    I guess great minds think alike :r

    However, there has to be a way to experience both kinds of euphoria at the same time right? I think I had that once. How about if you concentrate on one thing and that concentration is focused on your “tagging” theory, would that keep both states of mind running at the same time you think?

    This is a genuine question to everyone, thanks in advance.

    The best is to respond by leaving a comment to share the info but you can also mail me:
    doc dot modulo at gmail dot com

  • When I meditate I lie on my back on my bed. I am able to completely relax both my body and my mind, and then I get this sinking feeling where it feels as if my head and my upperbody is sinking into the bed. This gets me nervous and causes my heart to beat really fast, and it also prevents me from falling into what I think could be called the ‘zone’. I have tried to not be afraid but everytime I get to this point I get nervous. How can I overcome not getting nervous at that point.



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Cover photo of "A Minute To Unlimit You" by PJ Eby
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