I enjoyed this diagram of what happens to the brain during meditation!

Real Rest is the Best

Source: Mindful Muscle

It is intriguing to see how the key parts of the brain function during meditation. Maybe our brain is wired or designed for meditation, so that the physical aspect of our being is able to activate or facilitate the mental and mystical/spiritual/metaphysical aspect of our being. For example, the diagram shows that meditation slows down activity in the parietal lobe which processes sensory information about the surrounding world. This may enable us to transcend space and time, and access insight and wisdom that is beyond the natural realm of the five senses. I think it allows us to touch that deep, eternal space/place of peace and bliss, and our brain is therefore designed to make this possible.

 

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  1. One thing to keep in mind with this kind of information is that our ideas about what the brain does in different states of consciousness are bounded by the tools we use to image the brain, and these are very crude right now. EEG can measure changes in electrical activity on the time scale of milliseconds, but only images very fuzzy patches and can only ‘see’ the very outer surface of the cortex. EEG is completely blind to what happens inside your brain. Various forms of PET and MRI / fMRI have a fairly good spatial resolution and can image the interior structure of the brain based on differences in tissue density (good for finding tumors) and glucose metabolism but building up an image takes several minutes, so they really can’t tell us much about activity. This is why this diagram is so vague, saying only that activity ‘decreases’ in large patches of cortex. It is possible that activity actually ‘increases’ in other ways during meditation (other than cortical electrical activity or glucose metabolism) that we can’t currently see or measure. For example, there could be an increase in the release of specific neurotransmitters in a way that can’t be measured yet.

    • Good point Ken. I did also think that the image is incomplete as it doesn’t show what brain activity increases during meditation. If anyone has a better diagram I’d be happy to post it.

      Thank you,
      ~Wendy

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