W o K     :     Ways of Knowing

A Virtual Seminar


Neurophysiology of Meditation

This talk gave a brief overview of some key studies done by mainstream researchers on the neurophysiology of meditation.  The first part of the talk focused on long-term effects of meditation on brain structure and function.  Research has indicated that meditation is associated with increased activity of the left prefrontal area (which has been linked to optimism), increased cortical thickness in sensory and motor areas, and increased synchrony of gamma waves in various regions of the brain (suggesting greater integration of cognitive and affective functions).

The second part of the talk turned to a study that provides some interesting ideas about might be happening in the brain in the short run during meditation.  In particular, speculations were made about whether the kind of direct “seeing” associated with meditation may involve the operation of a second pathway of visual perception that does not go through the visual cortex, but simply makes a short loop through the lower emotional (limbic) area of the brain.

The greater part of the hour was devoted to a discussion of the above studies, as well as meditation research in general.  Skepticism was expressed as to whether direct seeing really simply involves activity of the second visual pathway, since that type of seeing seems to require operation of higher cognitive functions.

This was my first virtual reality presentation, and I was surprised by the extent to which a bunch of silly looking avatars can make the experience so much more effective and real than telephone conferencing.  As a novice though, it was a bit difficult for me to devote as much attention as I would have liked to the blurb at the bottom indicating who was speaking – or trying to speak – at any particular time, so that after the presentation, I was left with a vaguely uneasy feeling that I had inadvertently dissed a number of people!

Davina Chan

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