Brain Marvel: Meditation Keeps You Focused While Day-Dreaming Causes Depression
As it turns out, learning to apply meditation in your life is critical to mental health. It may just be what we all need to make our lives happier, encourage higher cognitive skills, and move us to advanced states of consciousness.
“Anything you train to do, you do it better” says Judson Brewer, Yale University Psychiatrist who is conducting a study of the brains of two types of meditators: 12 experienced meditators and 12 novice meditators. During the study, he found that the brains of experienced meditators were fitter and more “on task” than inexperienced meditators.
Meditation is described as an inwardly oriented personal practice that cultivates a state of consciousness, free from distraction. It is a form of discipline for the brain that when called upon to act is capable of performing at higher levels, as well as achieving well-being.
Meditation can positively affect vital organs of the body and has been known to reduce blood pressure, pulse rate, and lower body temperature.
Interestingly, persons who are new at meditation are likely to become depressed with less control over wellness. They are more vulnerable to factors such as stress, anxiety, and a lowered immune system.
The study, led by Brewer, compared the brains of highly experienced meditators and those of novices. They found that: the “Default Mode Network” – a newly identified cluster of brain region that allows daydreams—sparked up widely in the posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex of novice meditators, but remained quiet in advanced meditators.
According to Brewer, “this is brain training at work.” Meditators have more skill in guiding their wandering thoughts and bringing the brain back to specialized attention.
What this means is that individuals who meditate are able to control brain patterns and functions. A trained brain can generate increased connectivity between cognitive pathways and default mode network (the wandering side of the brain).
This is optimal brain control. Conversely, a ruminating brain with less cognitive control is associated with depression, ill health, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). But why is a daydreaming brain so bad for our mental health? Apparently, mental health is associated with having a controlled default mode network, allowed to explore who we are, yet doesn’t intrude in our ability to concentrate, when that is what is needed at that time.
Insights emerging from this study are soon to be published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, next week.