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Hear & Now

The benefits of yoga and meditation on brain health

On 29, Jun 2016 | In | By Jerusha Shulberg

The benefits of yoga and meditation on brain health

Yoga and meditation have been proven by a number of studies to both physically and psychologically improve brain health, particularly for those suffering with pain, depression, anxiety or addiction.

 

Increase in grey matter helps to reduce pain perception

Studies have shown that both depression and chronic pain sufferers can lead to a reduction in grey matter in the brain. Grey matter is brain tissue making up part of the central nervous system which is mainly situated in the cerebral cortex and subcortinal areas of the brain, serving to process information.  The impact of losing grey matter depends on which part of the brain there is reduction – it can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems or a decrease in cognitive function.

Several studies have been conducted monitoring the levels of grey matter in the brain in those who practice yoga and meditation and found that grey matter is actually increased in the brain, particularly after prolonged practice. This was shown to be evident in various regions of the brain, including those involved pain modulation such as the insula and the internal structures of the cerebral cortex. This suggests that the practice of yoga and meditation could benefit pain tolerance.

 

Meditation for depression

This is also particularly meaningful for coping with the symptoms of depression, as many studies have also shown.  In one study, meditation was shown to decrease activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network which is responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts.  This occurs when the brain is not focused on anything particular but wanders from thought-to-thought, an activity often associated with being unhappy or worrying about the past or future. Meditation has been shown to quieten the effect on DMN which allows people to focus quickly again and practice better mind control.

Another study looked at meditation as an anti-depressive activity and found the effect size to be 0.3, exactly the same as an anti-depressant drug. These studies are particularly relevant to those experiencing hearing loss as they often experience decreased levels of social connectivity which can sometimes lead to depression.

 

Meditation to regulate fear, anxiety and stress

Meditation was found to reduce the brain cell volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain which regulates fear, anxiety and stress. Not only was this change physically acknowledged, patients were also reporting an increase in their psychological well-being. This could be applied as a therapy for those suffering from tinnitus – to reduce the perceived severity level of tinnitus by better controlling the mind in order to reduce the related stress.

The majority of people who meditate do so to reduce stress and increase mental clarity, something which can be recognised within just a few weeks of meditating. Meditation is all about focusing attention and has been shown to help people with social anxiety, often experienced by those with hearing loss and those with tinnitus to normalise the sound of buzzing in their ears.

 

Meditation for the ageing brain

Meditation has also been shown to better preserve an ageing brain; 20 years or more of meditating leads to an increased amount of grey matter in the brain, helping to slow the effects of natural hearing loss experienced in older age.

 

Yoga and meditation at Cubex

Cubex have been integrating mindfulness based cognitive therapy and yoga as part of individualised treatment plans and therapy for patients experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus and cognitive stress. Practising mindfulness and focused breathing techniques with our in-house yoga teacher, Mrs Henrietta Greene, has already been helping patients to focus their mind and work towards reducing the cognitive load and achieving a healthier brain. We expect this to become a larger part of our treatment plans, particularly useful for patients who would like to continue practicing their therapy at home and away from our consultation rooms.

If you would like to learn more about yoga and mindfulness at Cubex , please get in touch!

Contact Cubex

 

 

References

Forbes – 7 ways meditation can actually change the brain – Alice G. Walton.

American Pain Society – Yoga and chronic pain have opposite effects on brain gray matter.

 

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