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Meditation is known for reducing stress and mental issues, and according to a new study by Harvard University meditation also helps build stronger brains, the Harvard Gazette reports.
For their research university investigators tracked patients for eight weeks who spent on average 27 minutes meditating a day. Magnetic resonance imaging scans were taken of the patients two weeks before the trial and at the end of the eight-week trial.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” study senior author Sara Lazar told the Harvard Gazette. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
After meeting with patients weekly researchers concluded that meditating on a daily basis leads to increase gray matter in the hippocampus, which is the area of “the brain that controls memory, learning, self-awareness, introspection and compassion.”
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”
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