Meditation Brain Waves of Tibetan Monks


In a lab tucked off a busy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing tibetan monks meditation brain waves monks into a car-sized brain scanner to study their ancient meditation techniques. He hopes to uncover not just the secrets of inner calm, but also how a practice that has been around for centuries might help solve some of today’s most intractable diseases.

Tibetan Monks Meditation and Brain Waves: Insights

For the study, thinly clad monks entered the laboratory, which was kept at a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of them began a deep meditation known as g Tum-mo, a form of yoga that focuses on breathing deeply and slowly. Others sat in silence. Attendants then wrapped the monks in 3-by-6-foot sheets that had been soaked with cold water (49 degrees). The frigid wrappings could have been life-threatening for untrained people, who would have shivered uncontrollably and possibly died from the drop in body temperature. But for the monks, it was no problem; they used their own meditative techniques to calm their bodies and minds, and they soon warmed up under the sheets.

The resulting EEG readings were surprising. The experienced monks showed unusually high gamma waves, which have been linked to consciousness, attention, and learning. They also displayed a unique down-regulation of theta waves in key frontoparietal brain regions, even when they were not meditating. This co-downregulation of theta and gamma, which occurs only in meditators, is believed to be related to the quality of meditation and its long-term impact on neural synchrony.

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