Here’s another one of these meditation researchers looking for effects on the brain. I don’t know if the research is any good, but the findings are in line with other studies – a thickening in particular areas of the brain. It’s implied that we should assume brain thickening is positive, and not that the brain is just getting fat. She refers to several areas of the brain in her findings:
Q: What did you find?
Lazar: We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups. In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:
1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.
2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
3. The temporoparietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.
The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.
So, to summarize, potential benefits might include less thinking about self, better memory and emotional regulation, and enhanced empathy. If it were true, that would be pretty good.