Although many people are excited about the potential for using computers to train their brains, we shouldn’t forget that other techniques have been used to the train the brain for many centuries. I’m thinking about the large number of techniques for meditation. While free computer software still requires an investment in a computer, meditation only asks you to sit or lie quietly and focus your mind.
A recently-published study shows parts of the brain in long-term meditators are larger than the same parts of the brain in people who don’t meditate. The article by Eileen Luders and her colleagues appeared in a recent issue of the journal Neuroimage (Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 672-678, April 15, 2009). The study showed that portions of the orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus were larger in persons who had been regular meditators for 5 or more years. The study is interesting because the parts of the brain that were larger are often thought to be important in helping people keep themselves emotionally balanced.
A number of strategies are likely to be helpful for meditators. There has been a great deal of interest over the last several years in mindfulness meditation. Researchers have studied how it can be used in reducing anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is based on Buddhist meditation (for a brief article, click here) but you don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice meditation. In fact, one of the most important persons who has promoted mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts. You can see a video presentation by him on YouTube by clicking here.