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What happens in the brain of people who practice meditation?

Across the world, tens of millions of people practice meditation. In recent years, an American researcher has conducted several studies to understand what is going on in the brains of followers. And it turns out that meditation would improve its performance!

Prevent frontal cortex thinning

According to sources, the human brain contains between 85 and 100 million neurons. However, all these neurons form a vast interconnected network. In a single cubic centimeter of human brain, there are no less than 10,000 billion synapses . These are nerve connections that allow neurons to communicate with each other or with other cells.

Sara Lazar is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School (USA). The person concerned has several times used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of people practicing the meditation (or yoga).

In a study published in the journal Neuroreport in 2005, Sara Lazar and her team proved that meditation could slow or even prevent the thinning of the frontal cortex with age. The fact is that the frontal cortex contributes to the formation of memories. However, we also know that over time, people tend to forget things. The study in question showed that people aged 40 to 50 who practice meditation have as much gray matter in the cortex than individuals between 20 and 30 years old!

What happens in the brain of people who practice meditation?

Promotes neuroplasticity

As part of a second study published in Psychiatry Research in 2012, Sara Lazar this time involved volunteers who had never practiced meditation. The neuroscientist put them through an eight-week training program. After the program, the researcher observed in the participants an increase in brain volume at various locations.

This increase was for the hippocampus , a region responsible for learning. It is also involved in the storage of memories, the regulation of emotions and even spatial orientation. Let's also mention the temporo-parietal junction (empathy and compassion). However, some areas saw their volume decrease. This was the case of the amygdala, involved in responses associated in particular with fear and anxiety.

This is about neuroplasticity , a term meaning that gray matter can shrink or thicken and neural connections can improve. It is also about the creation of new connections when the old ones deteriorate and die out. Thus, these biological changes can have an impact on well-being.