Researchers at Yale University have studied brain images on people who regularly practice meditation and found that are able to switch off areas of the brain linked to day dreaming, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other psychological brain disorders. The brains of experienced meditators show less activity in an area known as the default mode network, which is responsible for self-referential thought.
Meditation can help with a variety of health problems such as smoking habits, coping with cancer, and even prevent psoriasis.
MRI scans on both novice and experienced meditators revealed that they were able to switch off the default mode network, which has been liked to lapses of attention, and disorders such as ADHD an anxiety.
The scans also showed that the parts of the brain associated with self-monitoring and cognitive control were active at the same time as the default mode network in experienced meditators alone. Meditators are constantly monitoring and suppressing mind wandering thoughts, the kinds of thoughts that when extreme are associated with autism and schizophrenia.
Brain scans also showed that brain activity of experienced meditators was the same both during meditation and rest, or when they were not focused on a particular task.
Many forms of mental illness are based on a preoccupation with one’s own thought, a condition that meditation teaches practitioners how to monitor.