Meditation might grow the brain, literally.

Meditation grows your brain picWith the the most recent semester in rear view and next semester coming up, it may be a time to reflect on ways to improve yourself for a better semester and a better you.

Have you considered the many benefits of meditation and/or yoga?

Studies show that mindfulness-based meditation can be helpful for anxiety (1), depression (2), substance abuse (3), eating disorders (4), and improve your sense of well-being and quality of life (5).

College students might have another reason to meditate: it could grow your brain.

In 2 different studies, meditation increased the size of brain regions called the hippocampus (6-7) and the insula (6) (8). This might help with academic performance since these regions are involved in learning (9), memory (9), emotional control (10), for the insula, the process of awareness (11).

In another study (12), participants who practiced an average 27 minutes of mindfulness meditation (MBSR) daily over 8 weeks, had increased concentration of grey matter in brain regions involved in learning, memory processes, emotional regulation, and other processes.

With all these benefits, is it time for you to give meditation a try? Can it help you feel better, or make you a better student? How do you know?

 

On-campus resources:

  • The RPAC offers a number of Yoga classes each week throughout the semester.  Check their group fitness schedule for the latest.
  • CCS offers a weekly meditation workshop, called KORU specifically designed for college students.  Workshops will resume at the start of the semester.
  • Meditation groups and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs happen all over campus- look for them in the new semester!

Online resources for meditation:

 

Acknowledgements:

A special thanks to my colleagues Jennifer Lang, MA, LSW, MSW, for suggesting a study and Abbey Carter-Logan, MA, PACC-S, for the edits.

Disclaimer:

This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes.  With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

References

  1. Roemer, L., Orsillo, S.M., Salters-Pedneault, K., 2008. Efficacy of an acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder: evaluation in a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 76, 1083–1089.
  2. Teasdale, J.D., et. al, 2000. Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 68, 615–623.
  3. Bowen, S., et.al , 2006. Mindfulness meditation and substance use in an incarcerated population. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 20, 343–347.
  4. Tapper, K., et. al. 2009. Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women. Appetite 52, 396–404.
  5. Carmody, J., Baer, R.A., 2008. Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 31, 23–33.
  6. Hölzel, B.K.,  et. al. 2008. Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 3, 55–61.
  7. Luders, E., Toga, A.W., Lepore, N., Gaser, C., 2009. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage 45, 672–678.
  8. Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C.E., Wasserman, R.H., Gray, J.R., Greve, D.N., Treadway, M.T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B.T., Dusek, J.A., Benson, H., Rauch, S.L., Moore, C.I., Fischl, B., 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport 16, 1893–1897.
  9. Squire, L.R., 1992. Memory and the hippocampus: a synthesis from findings with rats,monkeys, and humans. Psychological Review 99, 195–231.
  10. Corcoran, K.A., Desmond, T.J., Frey, K.A., Maren, S., 2005. Hippocampal inactivation disrupts the acquisition and contextual encoding of fear extinction. Journal of Neuroscience 25, 8978–8987.
  11. Craig, A.D., 2009. How do you feel — now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 59–70.
  12. Holzel BK, et al. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191 (2011) 36–43.