Friday, June 26, 2009
We just received some exciting news here at the Amen Clinics. A study we conducted on the effects of meditation on the brain will be appearing in an upcoming issue of the journal Nuclear Medicine Communications, one of the premiere journals in the field of nuclear medicine.
For years, I've been recommending meditation to my patients as a great way to relieve stress, increase focus, and improve relaxation. In our practice, we have seen patients with Alzheimer's disease or who have had a stroke make great improvements thanks to meditation. With this study, we set out to examine what happens in the brain during meditation to bring about these positive benefits.
We performed the study in conjunction with Dharma Singh Kalsa at the Alzheimer's Prevention Research Foundation in Arizona and Dr. Andrew Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania. Together, we examined changes in brain physiology during Kirtan Kriya meditation using SPECT imaging.
Here's what we found. The left posterior parietal lobe, a region known to control spatial orientation, was deactivated during meditation. Consistent with this finding, the participants reported a sense of transcendence or detachment.
The subjects also reported an increased sense of focus and capacity for concentration, although we did not find increased activation in the attentional networks of the brain. This suggests that it is the willful act of focusing, not necessarily the mere act of meditating, that improves attention.
We also found heightened activity in the areas associated with working memory and language. Deactivation in a region called the subgenual cingulated gyrus might explain subjective reports of happiness and a sense of well-being while meditating.
Overall, the results offer evidence that this form of meditation changes brain function in a way that is consistent with the positive benefits we have observed in our patients.
Try meditation in your own life to enhance brain function and reduce stress. Just a few minutes a day may be all you need to see results.
To your brain health,
Daniel G. Amen, MD
CEO, Amen Clinics, Inc.
Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
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