Research into the health claims made for meditation has limitations and few conclusions can be reached, partly because meditation is rarely isolated – it is often practised alongside other lifestyle changes such as diet, or exercise, or as part of group therapy.
So should we dismiss it as quackery? Studies from the field of neuroscience suggest not.
It is a new area of research, but indications are intriguing and suggest that meditation may have a measurable impact on the brain.
In Boston, Massachusetts, Dr Sara Lazar has used a technique called MRI scanning to analyse the brains of people who have been meditating for several years.
She compared the brains of these experienced practitioners with people who had never meditated and found that there were differences in the thickness of certain areas of the brain’s cortex, including areas involved in the processing of emotion.
She is continuing research, but she believes that meditation had caused the brain to change physical shape.