Mental training can alter brain: Study

Press Trust of India, November 6, 2004

Washington, USA -- Neuroscientists have discovered that brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally by strengthening circuits used regularly and weakening those engaged rarely.

After studying the brain projections of hundreds of Tibetan monks, the scientists concluded that just as aerobics sculpt the muscles, mental training sculpts the gray matter, a media report said.

The scientists, in their experiment, compared brain activity in volunteers who were novice mediators to those of Buddhist monks at the Dalai Lama's residence in Dharamsala, who had spent more than ten thousand hours in meditation.

The novice mediators showed a slight increase in high-frequency brain activity or gamma waves, but most monks showed extremely large increases of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature, said Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who led the research.

The study suggests that mental training can bring the brain to a greater level of consciousness.

"Of all the concepts in modern neuroscience, it is neuroplasticity that has the greatest potential for interaction with Buddhism," The Wall Street Journal quoted Davidson as saying.

Neuroplasticity, one of the hottest topics in brain science, refers to the brain's recently discovered ability to change its structure and function.