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If you feel like your brain is moving at a glacial pace, you’re not alone. Many people are feeling stressed, tired, and frankly, burned out, from the past year-plus (and counting, sigh) of pandemic living. But there may be a way to make your brain quicker, and it’s something you likely (hopefully!) are already doing—meditation.
You probably already know that meditation is a practice in quieting your mind, but a recent study from Binghamton University, State University of New York, finds that meditation may also make your brain move quicker.
The study, which was published in May in the journal Scientific Reports, examined the brain patterns of 10 students over the course of an eight-week meditation training. The researchers instructed the students to meditate for 10–15 minutes a day, five times a week. After eight weeks of meditation, scans showed an increase in the speed of the students’ brains.
How do they know this? Well, researchers looked at the brain’s two general states of consciousness—the default mode network and the dorsal attention network.
The default mode network activates when you’re zoning out (i.e., daydreaming), while the dorsal attention network spurs into action when you’re paying attention. The researchers found that the students’ eight-week meditation practice led to a stronger connection between these two networks, and an increased ability to switch between them, which signals a rise in the functional connectivity—or quickness—of the brain. Additionally, once in the dorsal attention network, students were able to sustain attention for longer periods of time.
The study was a collaboration between assistant professor Weiying Dai and lecturer George Weinschenk, both in the department of computer science. Weinschenk is a passionate meditation practitioner and Dai studies brain mapping and brain research. As Chris Kocher notes for BingUNews, Dai and Weinschenk was a bit of an odd pairing. As next-door officemates, Dai and Weinschenk often exchanged in casual conversation. During one of these conversations, Weinschenk, in speaking about the meditation class he was teaching, mentioned the impact of the practice on the brain. Dai, initially skeptical of the connection between the two, wanted to test out Weinschenk’s statement in a quantitate way. And the study was born.
While this bit of research only looked at the brains of college students, Dai told Kocher she has future plans to conduct a similar study on an elderly population. She plans to measure a healthy elderly group against a group with Alzheimer’s or a similar cognitive impairment to see if meditation can improve brain performance.
Suddenly interested in making your own brain quicker? We don’t blame you. You can started right now with a 10-minute meditation for stress management, relaxing sleep meditation and gratitude meditation.