Oslo [Norway]: A team of researchers has shed some light on how meditation actually affects your brain.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the University of Oslo and the University of Sydney determined how the brain works during different types of meditation.
The meditation technique is divided into two main groups. One type is concentrative meditation, where you focus attention on your breathing or on specific thoughts, and in doing so, suppresses other thoughts.
The other type called nondirective meditation, where you effortlessly focus on your breathing or on a meditation sound, but beyond that, the mind is allowed to wander as it pleases. Although, according to the team, the research still reveals very little about which technique is the best, or better, it still provides food for thought about the increasingly popular concept of meditation.
Fourteen people, who had extensive experience with the Norwegian technique Acem meditation, were tested in an MRI machine, reported Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi. In addition to simple resting, they undertook two different mental meditation activities, nondirective meditation and a more concentrative meditation task.
Nondirective meditation led to higher activity than during rest in the part of the brain dedicated to processing self-related thoughts and feelings. When test subjects performed concentrative meditation, the activity in this part of the brain was almost the same as when they were just resting.
“I was surprised that the activity of the brain was greatest when the person’s thoughts wandered freely on their own, rather than when the brain worked to be more strongly focused,” said researcher Jian Xu, adding “When the subjects stopped doing a specific task and were not really doing anything special, there was an increase in activity in the area of the brain where we process thoughts and feelings. It is described as a kind of resting network. And it was this area that was most active during nondirective meditation.”
Co-author Svend Davanger said that the study indicates that nondirective meditation allows for more room to process memories and emotions than during concentrated meditation.