A couple of weeks ago, I posted about research that suggests the brains of some Buddhist monks generate more gamma waves than the brains of ordinary folks.
Science and Consciousness Review now has posted an interview with Dr. Sara Lazar. She and other researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital have been comparing brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. The scans suggest
that longterm meditation may increase the thickness of the gray outer layer of cortex, where cortical cell bodies are located . . . An increase in the gray matter thickness could mean an increase in the number of neurons, but also, as the author points out, an increase in dendrites, glial cells or in the cerebral vasculature. Indeed, the finding may reflect a combination of these factors, all of which may contribute to a high-functioning cortex.
The article touches on mainstream implications of the research — might meditating help us stay sharper as we age, etc. But what intrigues me most is a theoretical question that I’ve not seen posed, as yet: might some sort of meditative practice enhance our ability to access different “states of consciousness” more readily? Mystics, like the Christian mystic/metaphysician Neville Goddard, seem to have an inherent ability to switch their attention to non-physical phenomena. Is this a skill that can be learned? And if so, what are the implications for Western spirituality?
[tags] metaphysics, spirituality, meditation [/tags]