Yi-Yuan Tang said that meditation helps the brain stay organized.
What does it take to become a better thinker? Do you need to meditate for hours and engage in gruelling cognitive training? Or could the path to a healthy mind be as simple as walking 40 minutes a day? At a symposium on training, performance, and neuroplasticity at the 24th APS Annual Convention in Chicago, three researchers presented their own methods for improving cognition and for tightening the neural circuits that underlie an efficient mind.
APS Fellow and symposium chair Yi-Yuan Tang, from Texas Tech University, began by discussing his work on integrative body-mind training (IBMT), a meditation technique that he and his colleagues have adapted from traditional Chinese medicine. IBMT combines physical and mental relaxation techniques, “because you really need to train the body to train the mind,” Tang explained. Using detailed fMRI analysis, Tang has been able to pinpoint the neural changes that underlie meditation-induced improvements in mood and cognitive performance.
Me: The Body-Mind connection is at the core of the Taoist and Zen (both words mean Meditation) principles that I use and teach. Tang has used brain scanning to prove this to be true and to show that meditation increases Happiness.
Many studies on the effects of meditation examine lifelong meditators who have thousands of hours of practice under their belts, but Tang found positive effects in students who performed IBMT for less than a week.
Me:- This is what I was seeing on my classes 40 years ago. I wrote this in Get Happiness? Stop Daydreaming! Part 2.
After 20 minutes of meditation a day for five days, the students demonstrated improvements in their conflict-resolution abilities and creative problem solving skills, as well as decreased blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Me:- Which means a reduction in stress.
Tang found that patients who had been practicing IBMT longer (two to four weeks) had increased blood flow to the anterior cingulate cortex and insular striatum, two brain regions associated with self-regulation. Additionally, these brain areas had increased white-to-gray matter ratios, suggesting that the detectable changes associated with meditation might be mediated by increased networking in these areas.
Me:- The researchers I mentioned in parts 1 and 2 were talking about people with thousands of hours of Meditation training/study. At a normal level of 30 minutes a day these researchers were talking about training for about twelve years while waiting for a good result.
The researchers proved lots of good results but were completely adrift in this area. The people whom this research is supposed to help are not looking to learn the Buddhist, Hindu or Sikh religion. They are mostly unhappy, depressed or dysfunctional and are looking for tools of change that work and do not carry lots of baggage. Baggage they do not need or want. This surplus baggage is why they are talking about thousands of hours of training. Not the 2 to 4 weeks of 30 minutes a day that Tang and I are talking about.
Thousands of hours! What an unbelievable waste of time if you are desperate for quick but real results.
Don’t get me wrong. Religion will give some people some help and happiness. But the right type of clean, pure meditation will completely change most people. If you are looking for Happiness that you can use to move your life forward and the strong, agile and flexible mind that will allow you to grow and use that Happiness then you must choose carefully. If you are looking for therapeutic tools of change choose a Meditation that is not a part of a religion.
Why not Join The Happy People? It’s FREE and you can use the nearly 300 blog posts that will help you make the changes that you want in your life. Even if you never join The Happy People, you can read the blog LOL. We are here to make friends not money.
Me:- There is a vast amount of information in the article, including:
……..changes in brain structure ……….Participants’ brains, in effect, were becoming more organized through meditation.
APS Fellow Randall W. Engle, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, focused on a different method for mental improvement. He developed a cognitive training strategy designed to enhance working memory capacity.
Me:- The more powerful your brain, the better you can use it for Meditation and building Happiness.
Using arduous memory tests (and generous financial compensation),……..Of course, training can have impressive returns, especially when participants are paid for performing better.
……APS Fellow Kramer’s research suggests a physical workout could improve memory. In adults aged 59 to 80, Kramer found that walking 40 minutes a day, three times a week, helped to reverse the effects of age on brain circuits involved in attention and decision making.
Art Kramer found that walking could help reverse the effects of aging.
However, the deterioration of these networks might be reversible through exercise. Kramer asked two groups of self-identified “couch potatoes” to spend a year either walking or stretching three times a week and used fMRI to monitor the strength of brain networks at the beginning of the study, after six months, and after a year. The results were promising. The walking group improved their performance on cognitive tasks and increased the strength of certain brain networks, even to the point in which their brains resembled the brains of much younger people. Kramer also observed increases in hippocampus volume, measures of neural organization, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the walking group.
Me:- Great stuff!
The finding that exercise helps cognition is not new, but Kramer’s attention to the strengthening of networks suggests that the effects of exercise might be based in the same decision-making networks that allow us to play video games.
What can we learn from these disparate lines of research? Taken together, they suggest that cognitive training alone isn’t the secret to improving cognitive function. Instead, strengthening the connections between body and mind through meditation and walking may be the key to a better brain.
Me:- Why take chances? Do as I do! Do cognitive exercise ( Crosswords, Sudoku, etc. ), exercise and meditate. And of course, lots of Happiness training!