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Meditation found to increase brain size

May 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
We've heard that meditation can help lower your blood pressure and help you relax. But can it make your brain bigger? That's what scientists at UCLA wanted to find out.Meditation is a deeply personal practice. For some people meditation brings them focus, relaxation and lowers stress. But it may also be making their brains bigger -- yes, bigger.

Dr. Eileen Luders wanted to explore the connection between focused thinking - and brain size.

"If you imagine the brain like a muscle then meditation for the brain is like physical exercise for the body. Meditation is a mental workout," said Dr. Luders, UCLA.

What they found was pretty amazing. Two areas of the brain - the right frontal cortex and the hippocampus were larger in people who meditated. Those parts of the brain are linked to emotional stability, decision making and ability to concentrate.

Suzy Witten, who's spent many years meditating, isn't surprised. She says meditation has made her a different person.

"It's a consciousness, an awareness, it's a focus," said Witten.

And something that's helped her make better decisions.

"You become so self aware of all of your processes, especially your thought processes that you become much more analytical when looking at life. You also observe your own behavior," said Witten.

Dr. Luders says while she's happy the results of the study seem to indicate that meditation can help you control your emotions better and approach life with focus - those aren't the only benefits.

"If you want to start meditating you shouldn't do it because you want to have a bigger brain. You should do it because of all the benefits that come with it," said Dr. Luders

Now scientists at UCLA want to do further studies looking at other parts of the brain to see what other types of behavior might be affected by meditation.

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