Meditation Training May Increase Brain Tissue

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Dec 16, 2011

Mind-Body-Spirit News

As strength training is recommended to increase muscle mass, meditation training may one day be recommended to increase brain mass. A cross-sectional study published in the journal NeuroImage (2011; 57 [4], 1308–16) adds more evidence to the growing body of research suggesting that meditation can train the physical structures of the brain. This research shows that those who meditate have much more pronounced connectivity throughout brain regions.

“It is possible that actively meditating, especially over a long period of time, can induce changes [in the brain] on a micro-anatomical level,” said lead study author Eileen Luders, PhD, a visiting assistant professor at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the UCLA School of Medicine, in Los Angeles.

UCLA researchers compared the brain’s structural connectivity (white-matter fiber) in 27 active meditation practitioners, who had practiced for 5–46 years, with that of 27 control subjects, who were matched by age and gender but had no meditation experience. Scientists used diffusion tensor imaging, a type of magnetic resonance imaging that is especially useful in showing connections between brain regions. Comparison of imagery showed that meditators had much more pronounced white-fiber tracts in the brain. For example, meditators had more white matter connecting parts of the limbic system, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, with the frontal cortex and had more connectivity within the corticospinal tract.

Scientists have still not identified the mechanisms by which meditators accrue more brain tissue. Luders said, “It’s possible [they] might have brains that are fundamentally different to begin with. For example, a particular brain anatomy may have drawn an individual to meditation or helped maintain an ongoing practice—meaning that the enhanced fiber connectivity in meditators constitutes a predisposition towards meditation, rather than being the consequence of the practice.” More research was recommended, especially longitudinal studies to distiguish the contribution of genetics from the impact of meditation practice and to explore causal mechanisms.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 1

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA’s mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author base...


Trending Articles

How to Teach HIIT to Everyone

High-intensity interval training has been riding a wave of popularity, and it seems everyone wants to give it a try. However, intense interval training is nothing new. Group fitness instructors have b...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Can You Isolate the Lower Abs?

Most people find it difficult to add appreciable muscle to the lower abdominal region. While the upper abs generally respond rather easily t...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Nutrition Coaching: Scope of Practice

Historically, many fitness pros have avoided nutrition discussions for fear of straying beyond their scope of practice or have gone overboar...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Second-Chance Recess Workout

Do you remember being a kid? Before you could even pronounce “perceived exhaustion” or “cardiovascular exercise,” yo...

Show More