UCLA

Mindful Awareness Research Center event explores neuroscience behind creativity through meditation, song

About 40 people sat calmly with their eyes closed, letting their thoughts drift and their minds settle on the present moment.

In a quiet, steady voice, Diana Winston guided the group into a mode of relaxation.

“Try to soften your stomach,” Winston, director of mindfulness education at the Mindful Awareness Research Center, gently instructed them.

The communal meditation initiated an event about the relationship between creativity, the brain and mental awareness in the Neuroscience Research Building auditorium on Saturday.

“Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Creativity: An Interactive Exploration” was the first workshop of the summer and cost $50 to participate. In addition to classes and daylong programs, a full mindfulness course is also being offered through the center this…

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Overwhelmed caregivers: Try meditation

Shari Roan: HONOLULU — Home-based caregivers of ill or elderly family members are under enormous physical and mental stress, but daily meditative yoga may be a simple, effective strategy for maintaining health, according to a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Assn.

UCLA researchers Helen Lavretsky and Michael Irwin conducted an eight-week, randomized trial on the effects of meditation exercise on 49 people who were home-based caregivers of a loved one with dementia. About half of the caregivers listened to relaxation tapes for 20 minutes a day for eight weeks, while the other caregivers practiced Kirtan Kirya yoga, a meditation exercise. The study’s authors then conducted tests on mental and cognitive health, did brain scans and measured telomere length. Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that are protective of cellular health. Measuring telomere length can be used to determine how fast a person is aging.

The study found strong evidence that a meditative yoga routine improves both mental and physical health. While caregivers in both groups experienced benefits, the caregivers Read the rest of this article…

practicing Kirtan Kirya yoga had more improvements in quality of life, cognition and memory. Those study participants reported better sleep and less anxiety and said they felt care-giving was less of a burden than before they participated in the study.

Surprisingly, the telomere analysis showed meditative yoga also had an anti-aging effect.

The study participants “were middle-aged women under a lot of stress,” said Lavretsky, a geriatric psychiatrist. “It’s a day-to-day struggle for them. But meditation is one thing that will definitely improve things.”

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Build a bigger brain with meditation

Las Vegas Yoga Examiner: People who meditate have bigger brains than those who don’t, say researchers at UCLA.

Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of meditators and non-meditators, they found that those who meditated showed significantly larger volumes of the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus—all regions known for regulating emotions.

“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”

Study participants included 22 control subjects and 22 people who had practiced meditation from five to 46 years. Most meditated between 10 and 90 minutes every day.

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Because the areas that increased in volume are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.

It should be pointed out, however, that since the study did not track those who meditated from their pre-meditation days, that it’s possible they already had more gray matter and volume in specific areas and that may have been what attracted them to meditation in the first place. There have been studies though that have shown that environmental enrichment has been show to change brain structure.

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