MEDITATION IN THE LABORATORY
The positive effects of mindfulness techniques on modern ailments like high blood pressure, psychosomatic disorders or depression have become indisputable. More and more clinics, doctors and psychologists prescribe their patients meditation techniques.
Wolf Singer, one of the chief brain scientists in Germany, explains:
„According to our findings meditation does actually work, it has dramatic effects on perception”
What began harmlessly as research into “attentiveness regulation” could change the basic foundations of the scientific world, which until today argues that consciousness is a by-product of the brain.
But science has begun to admit that awareness changes the material structure of the brain. A fact which is generally known as “neuroplasticity” – under which is understood the nature of tissue and synchronisation of the brain – can change due to learning and training of awareness.
Richard Davidson, American neuroscientist and pioneer in the area of affective neuroscience, is researching the interaction of brain and emotions. For years he has been working on a brain research project together with Buddhist monks at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Thanks to the initiative of the Dalai Lama intensive examinations using the most modern methods of brain research have taken place in recent
Dalai Lama con Richard Davidson
years. Buddhist monks and neuroscientists are working together to measure the effects of meditation exercises on brain activity and emotions.
The monks meditate while lying in a magnet-resonance tube or their brainwaves are measured using the electroencephalogram (EEG) technique.
A fruit of this scientific programme showed that people who practice meditation can deal with destructive emotions much better because their mind is disciplined through meditation.
The scientists also noticed longterm effects, like slower degradation of brain substance in old age or a slight increase of the cerebral cortex. Scientists measured a higher activity in the gamma band and an increase of brain activity through the synchronisation of brain areas in the EEG of people who have been meditating for many years. The tested speak of a state of alertness and heightened concentration and the synchronisation of various areas of the brain. They could explain experiences beyond linear time and spatial detachment.
When tThe measurements of the brainwaves of the meditators showed an greatly increased gamma activity, a frequency scope that normally goes alongside increased mental activity. Meditation doesn’t switch off the brain, on the contrary, it stimulates the brain to highest attention.
hey asked the Dalai Lama what he thought of the findings he answered:
„The true mark of a meditator is that he has disciplined his mind such that he is free of negative emotions. ...
...The real measure of spiritual development is how well a person can overcome negative emotions like anger or jealousy and not whether he achieves spiritual states or belf-controlled shows of strength during meditation.”
How meditation stimulates our alertness and changes awareness is still unclear. But it apparently doesn’t do this just short-term but for good.
The monks already showed increased gamma activity before they even started their ‘experimental’ meditation in the magnet resonance tube.
The discovery of neuroplasticity, the capacity to change the awareness of the brain, is still too new for scientists to understand its meaning. But it is clear that it provides new possibilities for treating mental illnesses.
Furthermore it promises something more fundamental, namely a new understanding of what it means to be a human being.
Dassana has been leading meditation courses in Ibiza, Holland and Germany.