In 2005, the Dalai Lama visited the United States. On that occasion, he gave a speech at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington.
Over the past few years, the Dalai Lama helped recruit Tibetan Buddhist monks and encouraged research on the brain and meditation in the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The findings from this research suggested that, over the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the long-term practitioners had altered the structure and function of their brains.
This is an extremely valuable study finding for millions of people worldwide. For once, the idea that our brains experience cognitive decline as we age doesn’t have to be accepted as part of the aging process.
For a very long time, most of us have accepted the fact that, as we age, we will misplace our keys more often, and we’ll experience difficulty while trying to remember names. But this isn’t necessary anymore.
Thanks to advances in science and technology, we have learned a lot about the human brain. As a result of this knowledge, we are now aware that the brain is able to grow and change at any age.
Why is the size of the brain important? According to research, there are correlations between bigger brains and better brain health, and smaller brains with possible cognitive decline.
Also, now that we know that we can actually change our brains, we are able to reverse some of the negative sides of brain shrinkage. These side effects include memory loss, trouble with language, and having trouble to maintain focus.
In everyday life, these difficulties can manifest in many ways, from paying bills to going shopping for groceries. Thanks to neuroplasticity, medication is not the only option when it comes to improving your brain functions.
Neuroplasticity is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to learn and improve at any age. It is the brain’s own ability to reorganize itself through creating new neural connections throughout life. That means we are never too old to learn something new; it just might take more time and effort.
According to studies, people with bigger and more neuroplastic brains also may be at a lower risk for developing dementia. They could also experience stronger focus, creativity, clarity and recall.
Simply put, the relatively recent discoveries of neuroplastic nature of the human brain are telling us that our potential is not set at birth. This means that we can actually make our brains stronger and improve our brain functions.
For example, when it comes to memory and learning, there is one area of the brain that’s gained growing interest. This area is called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is special for its ability to generate new neurons every day – the more neurons we have, the healthier our brain is.
Neurocore Memory Boot Camp
Speaking of memory, science has shown that memory can be improved at any age. With memory exercises, everyone can take advantage of the brain’s ability to strengthen its memory.
Neurocore Brain Performance Centers are a national authority in applied neurosciences. Neurocore specializes in providing data-driven and brain-base training programs that help adults and children improve memory, concentration, sleep and manage stress.
Using this knowledge, combined with the latest technology, Neurocore has created an innovative memory exercise program called Memory Boot Camp.
Memory Boot Camp is an integrated memory program that treats aging brain and related memory issues. The program combines personalized coaching, brain training, vitamins and supplements, and health education to create a proactive plan.
Neurocore has a holistic approach aimed at improving memory and increasing mental sharpness. Neurocore is located in Boca Raton, Florida and Livonia, Michigan.
However, without proper care, neurons can’t survive. That means that certain lifestyles can make our neurons disappear faster. But the good news is that there are simple ways to help neurons grow.
How to Improve Brain Health
One of the first improvements is to start exercising more. According to studies, there is a strong link between physical fitness and brain health. Increased heart rate causes an increase in blood flow to the brain, which helps improve memory, attention, and brain.
Also, switching to a brain-healthy diet is a good way to improve brain functions. Mediterranean-style diet is especially good for brain. This diet includes plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts). Low-carb (no white rice or white bread), healthy fats (olive oil), herbs and spices, high protein (lean meats like salmon and poultry), and low red meat.
But one of the best ways to build a better brain is meditation. Backed by thousands of studies, meditation can change the structure of our brains and improve neuroplasticity according to Neurocore.
Despite the claims that meditation is just another wellness trend, meditation actually has the potential to grow the hippocampus. According to this Harvard-based study, after only eight weeks of stress reduction-focused meditation, participants had an increase in cortical thickness and gray matter in the hippocampus.
How Meditation Improves our Brains
There are a few key regions in the brain that can be enhanced through meditation. One of these regions is parietal lobe.
This region is directly associated with feeling connected with other humans. “Human connectedness” is very important for our overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
According to a study by UCLA Professor, “feeling connected” to others strengthens immunity, but also lowers levels of anxiety and depression.
When we feel isolated and separated from other people, the parietal lobe becomes overheated. Meditation can help you calm, cool, and collect this particular brain region.
According to a University of Pennsylvania scientist who took brain images of Tibetan Monks during meditation, their frontal lobes lit up, which was expected. However, no one expected to see that their parietal lobes will cool off as well.
Besides loneliness, meditation also influences creativity and brainpower. As you already know, our brains have two hemispheres, left and right. “Each hemisphere is a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting, all at a characteristically human level,” Dr. Roger Sperry said in his Nobel Prize-winning “split-brain” studies.
In short, the study suggests that left-brained people are more logical and practical, which makes them better at math and science. On the other hand, right-brained people are more creative, intuitive, and sensual. These traits often make them better at the arts and philosophy.
Over the last 40 years, certain parts of this study have been updated. Neuroscientists at Neurocore suggest that highly creative people are actually “whole brain” thinkers, rather than just “right-brained.”
Because we have one dominant hemisphere that gets so much work done, most of us have neglected the other side of our brains. Once again, brain imaging has shown that highly successful and creative people use both brain sides in a more integrated way than the rest of the human population. One of the most famous examples is Einstein.
Luckily for all of us, meditation can help us balance the use of both hemispheres of our brain. In 2012, a study found that the corpus callosum, or the nerves that cross-link the brain hemispheres, was much thicker in meditation practitioners.
This is a valuable neuroplastic discovery because, by building an efficient bridge between our brain halves, meditation integrates them into one after so many years of separation.
That said, meditation harmonizes both hemispheres and opens the door to so many benefits, including better focus, improved mental health, and creativity.
Meditation was also found helpful with patients suffering from depression. One in fifteen people suffers from major depressive disorder or MDD. Naturally, neuroscientists have been wondering for years whether the human brain itself can be the cure.
According to a Washington University Study, the hippocampus of the depressed patients had atrophied significantly. They also found a clear link between the number of years patients have suffered from depression and degree of brain shrinkage.
Their conclusion was clear: strong hippocampus eases and possibly prevents depression in the future. Another study found that, after only 8 weeks of meditation, the left and right hippocampi of participants had significantly grown in neural thickness and overall size.
Essentially, this means that adding meditation to your daily routine can reverse the effects of depression on the human brain, but also, it can “bulletproof” your brain to become less susceptible to depression.
While there is no cure for depression, it is helpful to know that medication is not the only way to fight it. It is also good to know how powerful the human brain is and that with enough exercise, it can protect us from more problems than we could have imagined before.
One of these problems is also memory loss. With so many things on our minds, the most us of forget important dates, keys or even names.
However, it’s important to note that memory loss is not an inevitable part of getting older. You probably know people who have a sharp mind even in their 80s. What is the key difference between those who can remember everything and others who keep forgetting things?
The answer is strong hippocampus. Once again, neuroplasticity can make your brain powerful, even if it takes a little bit more time. According to Harvard University’s study, meditation can dramatically increase hippocampal cortical thickness.
In a way, meditation is like an artist who shapes the learning and memory center in our brain into something amazing. Luckily for the entire human race, we now live in an age when we know that our intelligence isn’t set on the day we were born.
On the contrary, we have the power to influence our lives. Now that we know meditation can protect us from depression and improve our memory and learning, it’s time to find out how to live a happy life too.
Happiness is one of the most complex topics. What makes us really happy? Dalai Lama once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” According to research, he was right.
When we help other people, we feel more connected to them. That’s when life becomes more meaningful. According to a study by University of British Columbia, when we donate to charity, the pleasure center in our brain lights up.
Another study showed that acts of generosity are “contagious” – our kindness inspires other people to do the same. Research has also shown that kind behavior has many health benefits, such as living longer, lifting depression, and even strengthening immunity.
But if you thought that being compassionate is easier said than done because compassionate people are born that way, you are wrong. Once again, it’s all about the power of neuroplasticity.
The truth is, no one is born with a certain amount of kindness that empties throughout life. Just like memory and learning, you can train your brain to be kind. And meditation is here to help.
Our brain and level of consciousness can be trained like muscles, which presents the real power of neuroplasticity. A study by UCLA School of Medicine found that the right anterior dorsal insula of people who meditate is highly active during a session.
This is the same brain area that lights up when we are kind and compassionate to other people. Of course, the studies that performed these researches aren’t claiming that those who meditate are the biggest humanitarians in the world.
Meditation is about the positive change of perspective that comes through actively working on our brains. It’s also about the shift in consciousness that makes us do better things. One of these things is being kind to others.
But besides a more compassionate and kind brain, many people wonder whether they can do anything to improve their emotional intelligence. The main traits of emotionally intelligent people is that they have great careers, but also, long-lasting and fulfilling relationships with other people.
Emotionally intelligent folks are also empathic, self-motivated and have the ability to love and be loved. So if no one is born with the perfect amount of EQ, how does one improve emotional intelligence?
According to University of Illinois study, there is one brain area that is particularly important when it comes to emotional intelligence. This area is called temporoparietal junction or TPJ.
In addition to this study, a team of Spanish and German researchers found that, after just six week, the participants who meditated regularly managed to increase the internal consistency of their temporoparietal junction. They also massively reduced their anxiety and depression scores.
Speaking of anxiety, meditation is especially beneficial when it comes to stress and anxiety responses. To track these behaviors, we need to go way back to prehistoric times, when our ancestors needed their survival instincts to survive.
Besides their instincts, our forefathers relied on their highly evolved fear center or amygdala. However, our brains are still wired much like our ancestors. While there are no tigers and bears that threaten to eat us, our jobs and money problems still trigger the fear center.
Unfortunately for all of us, stress is the number one cause of many diseases. That means we need to figure out how to calm our amygdala so it doesn’t cause more harm.
According to a Massachusetts General Hospital study, those who meditate regularly have managed to silence the electrical activity of the amygdala. As a result, they experienced less anxiety, worry, and fear.
Meditation also helped them to dramatically decrease amygdala’s size! The best part is that they managed to do it after less than two months of practicing meditation.
And last, but not least, meditation can help you end insomnia. Sleeplessness is not just inconvenient; insomnia can be dangerous to human health as our energy, mood, and productivity disappear.
When it comes to sleep, it’s all about quality. You know the feeling – even though you had your 8 hours, you still feel tired. The thing is, it’s not about the number of hours. It’s about whether we spend enough time in a deep sleep.
Only when we are in the deeper REM level of sleep we are able to repair organs, heal wounds, renew cells, and so much more. However, one in three adults experiences insomnia at some point in their lives.
Luckily, now you know you can train your brain with meditation. According to a Harvard and Stanford study, meditation can mold the brain into a deep sleeping machine. Thanks to its ability to thicken our prefrontal cortex and shrink the amygdala, meditation makes falling asleep smoother. Those who meditate also get into REM easier, which makes their sleep more about quality and not quantity.
Similar Neurocore articles here: https://fox17online.com/2015/11/23/its-not-a-lifetime-of-paying-for-meds-neurofeedback-therapy-at-neurocore/