Neuroplasticity: 4 Ways Meditation Builds Healthy, Immune Brains
Harnessing Neuroplasticity: How Meditation Builds Healthy, Immune Brains
Scientific Breakthrough: We Can Now "Sculpt" Our Brain
Your brain’s potential is "fixed" at birth. Mom and dad's brain genes transferred to your DNA double helix determine your grades, SAT score, career path, and how much money you make. Is this true?
Nope. While scientists were once convinced that we could not upgrade our brain throughout life, recent discoveries have proven otherwise.
By taking a jackhammer to once carved in stone medical dogma, the brain’s newly discovered "neuroplastic" nature means that we can carve and mold our noggin' like a sculptor shapes his clay.
That is, through certain types of activities, we can physically and functionally change and upgrade our brains in ways once believed impossible.
Why Meditation Is The "Michelangelo" Of Brain Sculpting
In her bestselling book, "You Are Not Your Brain," Rebecca Gladding MD recently wrote "The brain, and how we are able to mold it, is fascinating and nothing short of amazing."
Then, what’s the best way to upgrade the human brain? With thousands of studies fueling the movement, many scientists believe meditation to be the best way to build a better, healthier brain.
Helping to ward off would-be invaders, here are four immune system linked brain regions that meditation so conveniently fortifies.
Meditation Brain Region #1 — Insula Cortex: Why Compassionate People Are So Healthy
A highly cited 2008 University of Wisconsin study showed the empathy linked "insula cortex" to be very active while a meditator is "in session."
What’s the link? Many studies, including one at Emory University School of Medicine, have shown that compassionate people have, along with huge reductions in inflammation, better stress responses and far healthier immune systems.
Think of the kindest people that you know. According to scientists, they should also be the healthiest that you know.
New meditators often report a big "shift" in consciousness very early in their regimen. Is awakening their dormant "insula cortex" the reason for this upgrade? Quite possibly.
Meditation Brain Region #2 — Hippocampus: "King Hippo" Drops Depression
People with depression know this brain region well. Actually, maybe they don’t, because depression grinds the hippocampus down to a nub. Luckily, meditation reverses the atrophy, making it big and strong again.
A 2008 UCLA study (Neuroimage Journal) found that after only 8 weeks of practice, meditators had physically and functionally grown the neural thickness, density, and overall size of their "right hippocampi".
With dementia, heart disease, cancer, and thyroid problems topping the list of depression related diseases, meditation’s implied health upgrading capacity is truly mind-boggling.
Meditation Brain Region #3 — Prefrontal Cortex: Build Intelligence & Health
If all of the brain regions held an election, then the Prefrontal Cortex would be emperor.
Perhaps the greatest dividing line between neanderthals and modern man, this "king of all brain regions" is ruler for good reason, known for: zapping anxiety and depression, good decision making, high intelligence (like Albert Einstein), strong immune system function, and more.
Then, what’s the best way to build up the prefrontal cortex?
Meditation. In 2005, a groundbreaking study by esteemed Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar found that meditation practitioners had extremely "well-developed" prefrontal cortexes, with a direct link between experience and size, strength, and "folds" (gyrification).
So, meditation not only fortifies your immune system, it can supercharge your intellect. Win win.
Meditation Brain Region #4 — The Amygdala: Achieve Stress Mastery
With countless studies implying that stress causes nearly every disease, it becomes clear that less stress leads to more health. You don’t need to be a doctor to see that the sky is blue.
Responsible for the "caveman" fear response within the brain, modern man is activating his double-almond sized "amygdala" way too often.
How many times did you face a life or death situation last month? Are you fighting lions, tigers, and bears on your daily commute to work? (Depending on the traffic in your city this may actually be true!)
The problem is, our primitive caveman amygdala is triggering negative stress hormones in response to our job problems, financial difficulties, and relationship squabbles. You can take the "caveman out of the cave", but you can’t take the "cave out of the caveman".
Or can we? Is it possible to evolve this primitive brain region, and in essence, hack ourselves to the front of the evolution queue? Yes, through meditation!
As evidenced by countless studies (including an 8 week Massachusetts General Hospital MRI brain scan study), the "caveman" stress response brain region, the amygdala, is cooled off and deactivated in and after meditation.
By shrinking the brain’s fear center, your stress plummets, and your health and immune system soar.