[Buddha-l] Meditation changes the brain structure
S. A. Feite
sfeite at roadrunner.com
Thu Jan 27 13:13:45 MST 2011
On Jan 27, 2011, at 12:44 PM, Macleod, Nik wrote:
> Seems that sustained application to all manner of things
> can bring about long term changes in brain structure -
> witness the changes effected in London cabbies by
> acquisition of 'the knowledge':
As neuroscientists say "neurons that fire together, wire together."
Interestingly also, Buddhist meditation helps the amygdala get
*smaller*. "Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other "primitive"
emotions." Large amydalas are also connected to primitive political
idealogies like conservatism.
"Political opinions are considered choices, and in Western
democracies the right to choose one's opinions -- freedom of
conscience -- is considered sacrosanct.
But recent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major
determining factor in the views we hold.
A study at University College London in the UK has found that
conservatives' brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of
liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other "primitive"
emotions. At the same time, conservatives' brains were also found to
have a smaller anterior cingulate -- the part of the brain
responsible for courage and optimism.
If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical
explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to
threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to
explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case
scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.
"It is very significant because it does suggest there is something
about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain
structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some
way determines or results in our political attitudes," Geraint Rees,
the neurologist who carried out the study, told the media.
Rees, who heads up UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, was
originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between
liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4's Today show
that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL
students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was
shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain
brain parts and political views.
He cautions that, because the study was carried out only on adults,
there is no way to tell what came first -- the brain differences or
the political opinions.
But evidence is beginning to accumulate that figuring out a person's
political proclivities may soon be as simple as a brain scan -- or a
In a study published in October, researchers at Harvard and UC-San
Diego found that a variant of the DRD4 gene predisposes people to
being liberal, but only if they had active social lives as
adolescents. The "liberal gene" has also been linked to a desire to
try new things, and other "personality traits related to political
For his part, actor Colin Firth, who hosted the BBC show that
revealed the results of the brain scans, has said he wants to see
brain scans on politicians to find out if they are telling the truth
about what they believe.
Questioning the "liberal" credentials of the head of Britain's
Liberal Democratic party, Nick Clegg, Firth said: "I think we should
have him scanned.""
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