Depression Shrinks Our Brain. How Meditation Builds It Back Up.
The "Happy" Hippocampus — How Meditation Ends Depression
The Curious Case of The Shrinking Hippocampus
With 1 in 15 people suffering major depressive disorder (MDD) at any given time, there is no shortage of people ready and willing to put their brain under the microscope in hope of a cure.
Thankfully, with journal after journal of promising insight into the so called "depressed brain," neuroscientists understand this ugly mental health issue's moving parts better than ever.
A landmark Washington University School of Medicine study (Sheline et al, 1999) MRI imaged the brains of 48 women, half of which were suffering from major clinical depression. What did they find?
Versus the control group, the "hippocampi" of the depressed patients had atrophied significantly, with a clear link between "number of years depressed" and degree of shrinkage.
To illustrate the findings, when we break our leg, its size and strength slowly dwindle away inside our orthopedic cast. When depression has us on the ropes, our brain's hippocampus slowly wastes away inside our noggin.
Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression
"So, if I want to lift myself out of depression (and prevent it in the future), I need to strengthen my hippocampus. Got it. But my gym doesn't have a hippocampus machine!"
Save yourself a trip to the gym, meditation is your "ACE Certified" hippocampus personal trainer.
A 2008 study published in the Neuroimage Journal found that, after only 8 weeks of meditation, the left and right "hippocampi" of participants had significantly grown in neural thickness, density, and overall size.
This incredible finding means that adding meditation to your daily routine can, in essence — reverse depression's dirty wheels no matter how deeply your tires are "dug-in," while bulletproofing your brain to future attacks.
With headlines like the Independent's "How The Beatles Meditation Technique Could Cure Depression," it appears that meditation's uncanny ability to lift us out of the doldrums is slowly entering mainstream consciousness.
As John Lennon's famous lyrics so eloquently put it, "Imagine all the people... living for today." Indeed, a world full of (depression-free) meditators would certainly grant the legendary Beatle his wish.