Monday, March 21, 2016
Prayer / meditation / exercise all improve prefrontal cortex & cognitive function
During religious recitation, self-identified religious subjects activated a frontal-parietal circuit, composed of the dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsomedial frontal and medial parietal cortex. Prior studies indicate that these areas play a profound role in sustaining reflexive evaluation of thought.
Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone, according to an interesting study of a new treatment program for people with depression.
As many people know from experience, depression is characterized in part by an inability to stop dwelling on gloomy thoughts and unhappy memories from the past. Researchers suspect that this thinking pattern, known as rumination, may involve two areas of the brain in particular: the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that helps to control attention and focus, and the hippocampus, which is critical for learning and memory. In some studies, people with severe depression have been found to have a smaller hippocampus than people who are not depressed.
Interestingly, meditation and exercise affect those same portions of the brain, although in varying ways. In brain-scan studies, people who are long-term meditators, for instance, generally display different patterns of brain-cell communication in their prefrontal cortex during cognitive tests than people who don't meditate. Those differences are believed to indicate that the meditators possess a more honed ability to focus and concentrate.