Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds The Brain’s Gray Matter In 8 Weeks

Original article here
Original article here

Test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard University.  The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter.  “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Sue McGreevey of MGH writes: “Previous studies from Lazar’s group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.”  Until now, that is.  The participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.  McGreevey adds: “Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany.

You can read more about the remarkable study by visiting Harvard.edu.  If this is up your alley then you need to read this: “Listen As Sam Harris Explains How To Tame Your Mind (No Religion Required)

Experts Divided on Native American Origins

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The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In “Beyond Science” Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.

In some ways, it’s hard enough to figure out what’s going on in the world today, let alone glimpsing into the dim corners of ancient history or the penumbra of prehistory.

Epigraphers analyze primitive etchings on rock. Geneticists analyze DNA samples from modern Native Americans and the ancient remains of their purported ancestors. Archaeologists pick through the debris of distant eras.

To explore extensively all their findings and hypotheses would require hundreds of pages. We will not provide a comprehensive look at all the evidence and will not include every theory. But, we will provide a glimpse at varying expert opinions to show that the case of Native American ancestry is far from closed.

Did a single wave, or perhaps a few waves, of migration populate the Americas, arriving via the Bering Land Bridge that connected Siberia and Alaska during the Pleistocene epoch (which ended about 11,700 years ago)? Did the ancient Native Americans remain isolated for thousands of years until the Vikings landed?

Or did smaller groups of explorers who haven’t made it into today’s history books slip into the New World throughout the ages?

Right: (Rossella Apostoli/iStock) Left: (Bonnie Hoogenboom/iStock)

A Harvard Medical School article published in July, titled “Genetic Studies Link Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon and Australasia,”quoted genetics professor David Reich: “There’s a strong working model in archaeology and genetics, of which I have been a proponent, that most Native Americans today extend from a single pulse of expansion south of the ice sheets—and that’s wrong. We missed something very important in the original data.”

There’s a strong working model … that most Native Americans today extend from a single pulse of expansion south of the ice sheets—and that’s wrong.

— David Reich, Harvard Medical School

Reich is the senior author of a study conducted at Harvard showing that Native Americans in the Amazon bear an unexpected genetic connection to indigenous people in Australasia. This suggests a previously unknown wave of migration to the Americas.

Also published in July, was a study by an international team of researchers, including senior author Dr. Ripan Malhi, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, titled “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans.” 

This study supports a single migration event. A single group migrated to America, then split into two distinct populations—the northern and southern populations.

The findings challenge a hypothesis that a second migration crossed the Bering Land Bridge, a hypothesis supported by analyses of skull shapes. Malhi said his study found no genetic evidence to support more than one migration.