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Meditators have bigger brains

New research using MRI scans from UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging shows evidence that meditators have larger brains than a control group of non-meditators. The lead author of the journal article, Eileen Luders summarizes,”We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular
ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and
engage in mindful behavior…The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why
meditators have these exceptional abilities.

In particular, they found: “meditators showed significantly larger
volumes of the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex,
the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus — all regions known for
regulating emotions


Luders adds, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’
the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for
well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.

I know that I am not supposed to be goal-oriented when I meditate, but how cool is it that in a few years I can literally respond, “oh yeah, well I have a bigger brain than you.” Okay, not really. I wouldn’t do that. I will just think it to myself in a moment of weakness.

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Jamie G.

posted May 13, 2009 at 10:02 am

Well, if you actually had the bigger brain, and had better control over your emotions because of it, you most likely wouldn’t even think to say anything about having a bigger brain. In other words, sounds like the Buddha was on to something concerning sila and samadhi (and don’t forget panna!).

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posted May 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

Ha. so true. I’m still a work in progress – I don’t have the average 24 years of meditation practice like those who were in the study.

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Brian Naas

posted May 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I generally think the whole “goal orientation being non-Buddhistic” thing is a load of bull, not to mention bad marketing.

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posted May 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Here’s a good article on meditation strengthening the brain:
We should start a gallery of funny pictures of models who clearly don’t meditate doing their best impression meditation.
By the way, at some point the idea of meditation being anti-goal oriented became popular, which is kind of funny because there’s not that much basis for this view in Buddhist teachings. They chart out progress and goals incredibly precisely. In fact, if the historical Buddha had access to neuroscience tools, he’d probably discuss the effects of the deeper states of practice quite similarly to these findings.
I think the reason it was hyped to not be goal oriented is that the goals of Buddhist meditation are subtler and more hidden, as well as existing mostly in long-term practice. So it doesn’t make sense to worry about your brain getting bigger session by session, but of course, the changes do occur, and our friends can see them even when we can’t (can other people see our larger brains bulging from the cranium?)

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posted May 13, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Too funny! That sciencedaily article seems to be an exact re-publication of the UCLA press release that Kirsten linked to, but with a much better photo–LOL.
We should def start a “gallery of funny pictures of models who clearly don’t meditate doing their best impression meditation”! Meditator of the Week, tongue in cheek. Send submissions!
And did anyone see this one, about effects of visualization mediation? cool stuff.

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