Research has shown that mediation has a multitude of health benefits, from stress relief, to lowering blood pressure, to helping people with cancer. A new study shows that it could also have effects on psychiatric disorders.
In the study to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Yale University found that people who are experienced meditators have the ability to turn off certain brain regions tied with daydreaming, autism and schizophrenia.
"Meditation's ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years," study researcher Judson A. Brewer, psychiatry professor at Yale, said in a statement. "Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one's own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically."
For the study, researchers conducted brain imaging (MRI scans) on newer and more experienced meditators, who went through three different meditation techniques. They found that when the experienced meditators meditated, a brain region called the default mode network had decreased activity. This brain region has been linked with ADHD, anxiety, and even amyloid-plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer's disease, researchers said.
In addition, when this default mode network was active in the experienced meditators, researchers found that their brain regions linked with brain control and self-monitoring were also activated. Researchers said this means that they are able avoid "me" thoughts and can keep their minds from wandering, which has been linked with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and autism.
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