Meditation Can Give Your Brain A Rest

If you’re doing focused meditation, your brain is in effect giving itself a bit of a rest.

Norwegian and Australian researchers, examining brain activity via an MRI, found that concentrated meditation, in which a subject focuses on breathing and works to suppress other thoughts, showed a brain activity level that was almost the same as the brain resting.

On the other hand, when the same subjects used a less arduous technique, their brain showed greater activity. The researchers call that technique “nondirected meditation.” In it, a subject does focus on breathing but allows the mind to wander.

“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 Jian Xu, who is a physician at St. Olavs Hospital and a researcher at the Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging at NTNU.

In the study, fourteen experienced meditators performed both methods of meditation.

Svend Davanger, a neuroscientist at the University of Oslo, and co-author of the study, said that the brain ‘has its highest activity when we rest. It represents a kind of basic operating system, a resting network that takes over when external tasks do not require our attention. It is remarkable that a mental task like nondirective meditation results in even higher activity in this network than regular rest.”

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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