It truly is amazing What we are finding out about what happens in our brain and body when we meditate.
The benefits of meditation are well-acknowledged. Yet a scientific explanation of how it works has been conspicuously absent.
Brown University scientists may have helped to overcome this barrier as researchers propose a neurophysiological framework to explain the clinical benefits bestowed by meditation.
Scientists believe that mindfulness practitioners gain enhanced control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms that help regulate how the brain processes and filters sensations, including pain, and memories such as depressive thoughts.
The proposal, based on published experimental results and a validated computer simulation of neural networks, is based upon the intimate connection in mindfulness between mind and body. This approach is consistent with standardized meditation training that begins with a highly localized focus on body and breath sensations.
The repeated localized sensory focus enhances control over localized alpha rhythms in the part of the brain called the primary somatosensory cortex, where sensations from different body are “mapped,” said researchers.
In a paper found in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers said that by learning to control their focus on the present somatic moment, meditators develop a more sensitive “volume knob” for controlling spatially specific, localized sensory cortical alpha rhythms.
Efficient modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in turn enables optimal filtering of sensory information. Meditators learn not only to control what specific body sensations they pay attention to, but also how to regulate attention so that it does not become biased toward negative physical sensations such as chronic pain.
The localized attentional control of somatosensory alpha rhythms becomes generalized to better regulate bias toward internally focused negative thoughts, as in depression.
“We think we’re the first group to propose an underlying neurophysiological mechanism that directly links the actual practice of mindful awareness of breath and body sensations to the kinds of cognitive and emotional benefits that mindfulness confers,” said lead author Catherine Kerr, Ph.D. READ MORE