How can meditation help to change structures in the brain? #2

This article consist of 6 parts. This is part 2. Written by Sophie Nusselder

The last view years scientist proved meditation is able to change structures in the brain. That’s interesting information! Don’t you think? When I heard Merel Martens – founder of Parimukti TT gave a reading about this topic last summer; I almost instantly wanted to listen to the audio. Here’s a brief review of it; supplemented with some personal research.

The brain is our most powerful organ and weights only about 1,5 kilo. It has a texture similar to firm jelly. If we simplify very much it has three main parts:

  1. ‘Higher brain’ Cerebrum or Cerebral cortex’ fills up most of the skull. It is involved whenever we have to process information (memories, thoughts, feeling, problems) and we want to take a decision from that. It also controls movement.
  2. ‘Middle brain’: the limbic system; is a ring of structures who form a border between brain stem and cerebral cortex. This part of the brain is related to emotions, memory and learning. It influences: pain, anger, hunger, thirst, (sexual) pleasure. In this part of the brain are a view structures called the Amygdala and hippocampus.
  3. ‘Lower brain’: is made up of the cerebellum and brain stem. These two structures together make thee lower brain. It connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, alertness, heart rate and blood pressure.

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In the limbic system we make memories. Basically what we do is: we compare information that comes in to events we’ve already been in and depending on that we take a decision. This is also the centre, which is very much evolved when we develop traumas. So for example: as a small kid you’re passing a dog while walking to the supermarket. The dog is tied on a tree and you want to play with the dog because you love dogs. But for some reason it bites you. As a natural response you start to cry. But then the next day you’re walking again a dog is there while walking to the supermarket. This time your reaction is different. This time you’re linking the dog with fear and potential threat. Now your body is conditioned to a fighting response. You start crying and want to flight although there is no real threat.

Sometimes it’s really useful to have a flight-flight emotion when you feel fear or potential threat. But when an emotion starts to dominate too much and is not in balance anymore with your rational decision-making (prefrontal cortex) then you have a problem. There’s one stage in life when there’s a natural imbalance: adolescence. In this period irrational thoughts are more present. Highly emotional thoughts like  “why is my mum always bothering me?” or ‘‘everyone is against me” are quite normal to have at this age. Reason: in this period of 15 to 20 years old the limbic system is growing and super active and the ‘Higher brain’ or cerebrum or cerebral cortex is not quite developed yet. Also scientist discovered The cerebrum or cerebral cortex of people with diseases like Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has an imbalance of amount of cells compared with the average.

So: how can meditation help us to become more happy?

If I want to give a potential answer on this question I need to research on the neurological effect of meditation. Tomorrow you can read what I found out.


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Hit here for part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

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