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Research into the brain has shown that meditation strengthens the connection between brain cells. It also can decrease stress. And now a study at UCLA shows that meditating helps produce more folds in the brain’s cortex, a process that is believed to allow the brain to process information faster.
This folding, called gyrification, occurs in the outermost layer of the brain’s neural tissue. The scientists found that the amount of gyrification in the cortex was proportional to the number of years people had been practicing meditation. This is thought to provide further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity (its ability to adapt to environmental changes).
“Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation,” says researcher Eileen Luders. “So the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding in the insula.” (The insula is a part of the brain involved in the integration of information.)
While Luders cautions that genetic and other environmental factors could have contributed to the effects the researchers observed, she says: “The positive correlation between gyrification and the number of practice years supports the idea that meditation enhances regional gyrification.”