American researchers at the UCLA School of Medicine, looking into the benefits of meditation, have discovered that regions of the brain responsible for regulation of our emotions, are larger in people who have been long-term meditators, compared to those who do not meditate. They used high resolution MRI to scan the brains of 22 participants, aged 30 to 71, all of whom had practised meditation extensively, and compared their scans with those of age-matched controls. Those who meditated had been doing so for between 5 and 46 years, most practised daily, sessions ranged from 10 to 90 minutes, and encompassed a variety of styles.
In the meditators, regions of the brain important in emotional regulation and response control, were significantly larger. Most of the regions identified were in the right hemisphere, associated with sustaining attention and therefore relevant in meditation. The researchers conclude that these enlargements may account for meditators’ ability to cultivate passive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behaviour.
(The Underlying Anatomical Correlates of Long-Term Meditation: Larger Hippocampal and Frontal Volumes of Grey Matter. Neuroimage, 15 April 2009.)