Meditation Builds the Brain



InsulaBrain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula, areas shown to be involved in the integration of emotion and cognition.  Meditators may be able to use this self-awareness to more successfully navigate through potentially stressful encounters that arise throughout the day.

Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. Connections between sensory cortices and emotion cortices play a crucial role in processing of emotionally salient material and adaptive decision making.

The main focus of Insight meditation is the cultivation of attention and a mental capacity termed ‘mindfulness’, which is a specific nonjudgemental awareness of present-moment stimuli without cognitive elaboration. This form of meditation does not utilize mantra or chanting. Participants were not monks, but rather typical Western meditation practitioners who … meditated an average of once a day for 40 minutes, while pursuing traditional careers in fields such as healthcare and law [some were meditation or yoga teachers].


Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
by Sara W. Lazar, Massachusetts General Hospital
Catherine E. Kerr, Harvard Medical School
Rachel H. Wasserman, Yale University and others.



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How meditation improves focus and emotions

Parts of brain involved in meditationThat meditators are better able to concentrate and have steadier, more positive emotions has long been known. Regulation of emotion and attention occurs principally in the hippocampus, thalamus, and other specific parts of the brain. New research at UCLA has revealed exceptional enlargement of these structures in the brains of meditators. This growth does not come at the expense of other mental abilities as, “There were no regions where controls had significantly larger volumes or more gray matter than meditators. … Research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of meditation. In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of stress and bolstered immune systems.” (Science Daily)

Eileen Luders, Ph.D.These might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.

Eileen Luders, Ph.D.



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Meditation for Managers video