Tuesday, January 25

catch those rays

Winter in Illinois. The days are stark, leaving me to feel almost lucky that I'm stuck inside my office, where my officemate and I have secretly stashed a small spaceheater for extra toastiness.

Today, however, Mr. Sunshine has boldly popped out from gray skies and is flirting with me through the window. I think I'll play hard-to-get--as much as I want to welcome his brazen caresses, I'm no fool. Daylight minutes that have toddled along through my workday will suddenly skip and skitter past sunny, sunset, and dusk as soon as I reach for my mittens. Deep darkness, just in time for a cold commute home.

Thankfully, I ran across something that brightened my day without Mother Nature's assistance. It appears that "mind over matter" really is possible--from The Washington Post:

"Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.

Those transformed states have traditionally been understood in transcendent terms, as something outside the world of physical measurement and objective evaluation. But over the past few years, researchers at the University of Wisconsin working with Tibetan monks have been able to translate those mental experiences into the scientific language of high-frequency gamma waves and brain synchrony, or coordination. And they have pinpointed the left prefrontal cortex, an area just behind the left forehead, as the place where brain activity associated with meditation is especially intense.

'What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before,' said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university's new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. 'Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance.' It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.

Scientists used to believe the opposite -- that connections among brain nerve cells were fixed early in life and did not change in adulthood. But that assumption was disproved over the past decade with the help of advances in brain imaging and other techniques, and in its place, scientists have embraced the concept of ongoing brain development and 'neuroplasticity.'

Davidson says his newest results from the meditation study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November, take the concept of neuroplasticity a step further by showing that mental training through meditation (and presumably other disciplines) can itself change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain." View the whole article....

I'll take Gamma waves over UV rays any day of the week!


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