Here’s exactly what you need to know about meditation and the brain. Meditation not only calms down an agitated brain but also causes structural changes in the brain that can improve several brain functions. This was discovered from research studies carried out at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston. The research found that practitioners of mindful meditation led to significant increase in gray matter in the brain. The control group (people who did not meditate) did not have this measurable changes in gray-matter.
Researchers have linked this gray matter to increase in attention spans, empathy, sense of self, better learning and memory. It shows that people have a significantly better quality of life when their brains are influenced by meditation. This means that meditation has effects on how the brain responds to the circumstances you allow into your life. In this article you will see what brainwaves are and the effects meditation has on brainwaves. After reading this article you will know more about meditation and the brain than most people do.
What are Brainwaves?
Brainwaves are simply electrical activities going on in the brain. Our brains are made of billions of cells called neurons which use electricity to communicate with each other. This activity can be registered as oscillations (popularly called brainwaves) by placing electrodes on the scalp, amplifying the signals and displaying them on a computer monitor. The electrical impulses can be measured by a device called an electroencephalograph (EEG), and seen on a monitor as brain wave patterns. The speed of the electrical impulses is called frequency which is measured in hertz or cycles per second. The frequency of our brainwaves can be classified into four major categories: They are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. These categories determine the state of our mind at any given time and how we react to circumstances. Their given frequencies and associated states of mind are given below.
Beta: The frequency for this category is from 14 to 32 Hz. It helps us to navigate and carry out activities in our daily lives. As a level of conscious thought we can reason, think, become alert and concentrate. When the frequency at this level is too high one can suffer from nervous breakdown, insomnia, anxiety, stress and lack of focus.
Alpha: The frequency for this category is from 7 to 14 Hz. This is the state that many people who meditate strive to be in. When in alpha mode we can be alert and awake, but not processing much information. We can experience relaxation, super learning and memory retention, increased concentration and focus and increased health. We can also achieve effective self-hypnosis and mental re-programming.
Theta: The frequency for this category is from 3 to 7 Hz. This is when we experience light sleep, extreme relaxation and when the subconscious mind is active. It is at this stage that we also experience deep meditation and spiritual meditation which makes us enjoy increased creativity and deep healing of the mind and body.
Delta: The frequency for this category is from 0.1 to 3 Hz. At this stage we lose total body awareness. We get into deep dreamless sleep that helps the body to reset itself. This is the gateway to the unconscious access to the universal psyche or mind.
You have seen that brainwaves are basically about the electric movements in the brain and how our different circumstances influence the frequency of the electrical neuron movements in the brain. Now that you know about brainwaves, let’s find out the effect that meditation has on brainwaves.
What Effect Does Meditation Have on Brainwaves?
Meditation definitely has an effect on the brain just as gyms, push-ups, crunches and personal trainers affect our bones and muscles. It is the best way the brain can get larger and stronger. This was discovered by a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate. They reported that certain regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger than in a similar control group.
The areas that increased in size were areas of the brain that regulate the various kinds of emotions that we may have. These areas are the hippocampus, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus. This is why when people meditate their brainwaves revert to the alpha stage where they experience super learning; concentration, active memory and general well being. Basically, this brainwave pattern causes the brain to be larger in areas that control emotions and enable meditators to regulate their responses to whatever life throws their way.
Meditation has significant effects on the brain. Veteran Buddhist meditators and monks proved this to be true when scans of their brain showed that areas that control certain emotions where significantly larger than those who don’t meditate. You have also seen what brainwaves are and how meditation helps to bring them to a stage where you can enjoy all the benefits of meditation. You can use these facts to help you have a better meditative experience from now on.