Meditation Effects: Shifting Your Brain's Gears with Brain Entrainment

Uma Shankari By Uma Shankari, 17th May 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Philosophy>Eastern

Meditation helps you to alter brain waves and reach deeper states of consciousness, an effect that can be simulated with technology as well.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a technique to relax and quieten the mind and experience harmony within ourselves. Meditation is a highly alert state of mind where practitioners focus dispassionate attention to their bodily experiences and mental state and remain psychologically present with the 'self', whatever happens around them. Meditators clear the inner chatter of the mind through meditation, create peaceful feelings in the body, and then let the mind be absorbed in those feelings. Body and mind being interconnected, the body gets healed when the mind dwells on the peaceful vibes of a relaxed body.

Meditation Techniques

People use several techniques to quieten the mind. One of the ways is to simply watch the flow of breath. As the breath becomes slow and steady, the mind becomes calmer. You can chant mantras. When the mind drifts away from the chant, gently direct it back. The chant should be soundless, and you should not use your lips. The sound of the chant would vibrate in your head. Simple though the technique is, the calming effect is guaranteed.

The Dichotomous Brain and Whole Brain Integration

The two parts of the brain perform complementary jobs, with the left brain being responsible for reasoning and the right for emotional/creative aspects of a job. But memory consolidation, which incidentally happens during sleep, depends on their effective coordination, with the right brain helping the left absorb the details, supplying it the colors, passion or such emotional details so that the information gets stored in permanent memory.

Thus the integration of the brain functions enable individuals to be rational and spontaneous, analytical and creative, all at the same time.

Effects of Meditation

Meditation activates sections of the brain controlling the autonomic nervous system, which governs involuntary functions— such as digestion and blood pressure. Studies suggest that meditation can help people regulate their emotions. This can be attributed to serotonin production which is stimulated by voluntary repetitive action – such as ritual bowing or singing or, in the case of meditation, regular, and intentional breathing.

Meditation can help people focus better. Meditation results in better communication between the left and the right brain hemispheres and slower brainwaves which promotes whole brain integration. This makes the conscious mind come into contact with the subconscious.

Researchers have used MRI technology on participants to monitor brain activity during meditation. They found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—with the result the stress-prone right frontal cortex shows less activity compared to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.

Researchers also found that the long time practitioners showed high amplitude gamma waves particularly in the left prefrontal cortex. Experienced practitioners also had increased gamma wave activity while not meditating, indicating that meditation may cause permanent changes to brain activity.

Brainwave Entrainment and Frequency Following Response

Drumming and chanting have been used in different cultures to create rhythmic patterns which would stimulate altered states of consciousness. Vibrations of one object will cause the vibrations of another object to oscillate at the same rate and the vibrations ultimately synchronize — a process called “Brainwave Entrainment”. If you were listening to rhythmic drum, your brainwaves would entrain to match that frequency. If the drum beat at 6–7 Hz (cycles per second), you would begin to feel deeply relaxed and reach an “altered state of consciousness.” Each time your brain’s electrical activity comes in alignment with the rhythm of the drum sound, the wave in the brain is said to get "entrained". The ability of the brain to match the sound (or light frequency) that you are exposed to is called the “Frequency Following Response.”

This resonance response occurs in the whole brain, and the wave forms of both right and left hemispheres become identical in frequency, amplitude, phase, and coherence.

Altering Brainwaves Through Sounds

Technology has been used to create sounds with frequencies such that the listeners can experience what are called alpha (9–14 Hz) or theta waves (5–8 Hz) in the brain and attain deeper states of mind. These waves have greater amplitude and fewer frequencies than the Beta waves that represent brain waves when it is occupied/busy. By comparison, delta waves occurring during deep sleep are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency (1.5 – 4 Hz).

Technology aided or otherwise, meditative practice lets you develop ability to remain conscious while getting progressively into deeper and deeper states and peek into your sub-conscious.

Tags

Alpha, Beta Wave, Brainwave Entrainment, Meditation, Meditation Benefits, Meditation Techniques, Right Brain And Left Brain Integration, Theta Waves, What Is Meditation

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author avatar Uma Shankari
I write on society, relationships, travel, health, nutrition and fitness.
http://www.triond.com/users/uma+shankari
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