Question

Spiritual Therapies

Does science believe in the power of prayer and meditation?

A Answers (1)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered

    Few people would say that prayer gets the medical and scientific attention that, say, Alzheimer's research gets, but that doesn't mean that there isn't some impressive scientific evidence about the power of prayer. For example, we know that prayer and meditation have a lot of neurological benefits. Meditation leads to a thicker cortex (any kind of regular mental activity builds new brain connections). And we know that meditation works for de-stressing by activating the vagus nerve - a nerve that carries a truckload of information to the brain.
    So you can build up your brain just like your biceps if you're doing the correct exercises. Some studies have also shown that the frontal lobe (deals with concentration) lights up like a campfire during prayer and meditation. Still, other researchers used EEG tests to show that meditating monks had higher than normal gamma waves, which are thought to be helpful in synchronizing separate forms of brain function to help form a unified perception of the world (the purpose of prayer and meditation, after all, right?). Buddhist monks, in fact, hypertrophy the meditation centers of their brain on MRI scanning and can selectively increase blood flow to these areas within minutes of entering a meditative state, proving that we can indeed retrain our brains. And believe it or not, while the body is not spending energy during such meditation, your brain can almost double its activity level.

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