Meditation Changes Your Brain for the Better

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few years (meditating of course), you’ve been reading the huge number of articles touting the benefits of meditating from stress reduction to better concentration.

Here are two more research areas – supporting what cave dwelling meditators have experienced but not read (cave dwellers don’t get good internet reception)- which found that meditation has very real effects on your brain and can be seen on a brain scans (which are not available in caves).

Cushy Cave by Peggy

Meditation measurably reduces anxiety.

The medial prefrontal cortex is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from our bodily sensation and fear centers in the brain to the prefrontal cortex are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong neuro-chemical reaction creating a “fear response” and you think you are “under attack”.

Meditation weakens this neural connection and consequently we don’t react as strongly to any sensations we might have . The more we meditate the betterwe weaken this connection and simultaneously strengthen the connection between the part of our brains known for reasoning. So when we experience frightening or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.

Meditation improves memory recall

Researcher Catherine Kerr “found that people who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust the brain wave that screens out distractions and increase their productivity more quickly that those who did not meditate. She said that this ability to ignore distractions could explain ‘their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.

Want to learn how?  Check out  Joy on Demand, by Chade-Meng Tan, He makes meditation seem fun and easy.

You can also type in “meditation” in our blog post search at the top to find other posts.

Drug “reverses” ageing !

A drug that can reverse aspects of ageing has been successfully trialled in animals . . .  mice to be specific

They rejuvenated old mice (the equivalent of 90 in mouse years) to restore their stamina, coat of fur and even some organ function.

The findings, published in the journal Cell, showed liver function was easily restored and the animals doubled the distance they would run in a wheel.

Dr Peter de Keizer and the team at Erasmus University Medical Center, in the Netherlands, are planning human trials for what they hope is a treatment for old age.  (I’m signing up.  Always wanted to visit the Netherlands – the country, not the psychic-state)

The approach works by flushing out retired or “senescent” cells in the body that have stopped dividing. They accumulate naturally with age and have a role in wound healing and stopping tumours. But while they appear to just sit there, senescent cells release chemicals that cause inflammation and have been implicated in ageing.

The scientists created a drug that selectively killed senescent cells by disrupting the chemical balance within them.  The drug was given three times a week and the experiments took place for nearly a year.

“There are no signs of side-effects but “mice don’t talk”, Dr de Keizer said. “However, it is thought the drug would have little to no effect on normal tissues.”

(Mice talk, human’s just don’t understand “Mouselish”)

When asked if this was a drug for ageing, Dr Keizer told the BBC News website: “I hope so, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating as you say.  In terms of mouse work we are pretty much done, we could look at specific age-related diseases eg osteoporosis, but we should now prepare for clinical translation.”

Commenting on the results, Dr Dusko Ilic, a stem cell scientist at King’s College London, said: “The finding is impossible to dismiss.  [But] until more high-quality research is done, it is better to be reserved about these findings. Though, I would not be surprised if manufacturers try to capitalise on this and, in a few years, we could buy this peptide as a supplement over the counter.”

Pawsitively Tuesday – Weighty Reflection

Reflection Direction:

1. Write spontaneously, VERY quickly, don’t analyze, everything (small or large) that “weighs” on you.

2. After completing your “Weight List” assign a number, based on how heavy you perceive each item:

1 = bicycle, 2 = motor cycle, 3 = car . 4= pick-up truck  5=jet airliner

3. Write down what YOU can LITERALLY control for each item on your list.

Frankly Freddie – Beware of evening stress like loud fireworks

Dear Freddie Fans,
As canines go I’m extremely laid back.  The only thing that stresses me are fireworks.  (If humans can send people into space they should be able to make fireworks that don’t make noise.) .  Humans, unlike me, seem to be stressed all the time but . . .

 . . . did you know

The human body releases lower levels of the hormone (that helps ease stress)

in the evening?

According to my research sources*: Cortisol levels — controlled by the circadian clock in the brain — increase significantly in the morning, but not in the evening.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva were measured from 27 “. . .  young and healthy volunteers, who adhere to normal work hours and sleep habits,  The subjects were not obese and were in tiptop physical condition. Moreover, they did not have jobs in the early morning nor late night nor rotating night shifts, and they all had no personal history of psychiatric, endocrine, or sleep disorders” LIKE ME.

The study is probably too boring for you to read so I’ve distilled the essence for you:

When a stressful event activates the axis, the body releases cortisol.

Encountering stress later during the day or at night time can be harder on the body.*

Some of the important conclusions is the need to take time for your wellbeing, beginning with managing stress, particularly as the day is coming to a close. I have simple solutions for you to ease your stress in the evening and stop it from aggravating your health.

  • Don’t dwell on problems – humans who are too lazy to go for walks, not enough tasty treats, fireworks that contribute to mental anguish.
  • Get a pet LIKE ME.
  • Engage in a  hobby – play ball,   
  • Take “alone” time – you can scratch yourself.
  • Eat human superfoods like spinach & turkey, food high in tryptophan that contains an amino acid that boosts serotonin production that aids in alleviating stress.
  • Still your mind with positive thoughts 
  • Try mind-calming (HUMAN) activities: yogo, meditation, journaling
  • Surround yourself with positive people – like P&J

I had to learn basic Japanese words (“Time to eat”, “Let’s walk”, “Give me a treat”, “Please”, “Thank you”) to bring this information to you.*


I’m happy (to be able to help you).

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Polyglot

* Research done by medical physiologist Yujiro Yamanaka of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and Japanese researchers Hidemasa Motoshima and Kenji Uchida  published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Twitter: “Beware of evening stress.”

Taboos & Intestines

When we were growing up sex was taboo topic #1.  Our intestinal track, and what went in and came out was perhaps #2.  You or someone you know probably has IBS . . . it is rarely talked about or shared.  That’s beginning to change as research increasingly is showing the importance of our microbiome and has dubbed the “gut” as our second brain.

Signals generated by the brain can influence the composition of microbes residing in the intestine and that the chemicals in the gut can shape the human brain’s structure.

Researchers at UCLA have revealed two key findings for people about the relationship between the microorganisms that live in the gut and the brain:

1.   For people with IBS, research shows for the first time that there is an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies.

2.  The researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and the composition of the gut microbiome.


“The UCLA researchers collected behavioral and clinical measures, stool samples and structural brain images from 29 adults diagnosed with IBS, and 23 healthy control subjects. They used DNA sequencing and various mathematical approaches to quantify composition, abundance and diversity of the gut microbiota. They also estimated the microbial gene content and gene products of the stool samples. Then the researchers cross-referenced these gut microbial measures with structural features of the brain.”

Based on the composition of the microbes in the gut, the samples from those diagnosed with IBS clustered into two subgroups:

  • One group was indistinguishable from the healthy control subjects, while the other differed.
  • Those in the group with an altered gut microbiota had more history of early life trauma and longer duration of IBS symptoms.
  • The two groups also displayed differences in brain structure.


“Analysis of a person’s gut microbiota may become a routine screening test for people with IBS in clinical practice, and in the future, therapies such as certain diets and probiotics may become personalized based on an individual’s gut microbial profile. At the same time, subgroups of people with IBS distinguished by brain and microbial signatures may show different responsiveness to brain-directed therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy and targeted drugs.

“A history of early life trauma has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes and to alter gut microbial composition. It is possible that the signals the gut and its microbes get from the brain of an individual with a history of childhood trauma may lead to lifelong changes in the gut microbiome. These alterations in the gut microbiota may feed back into sensory brain regions, altering the sensitivity to gut stimuli, a hallmark of people with IBS.”

“Being on the same wavelength” isn’t just a figure of speech but proven neuroscience

A study on brain-to-brain synchrony, published in Current Biology examined the neuroscience of classroom interaction and found that shared attention—spurred by certain stimuli, like eye contact and face-to-face exchange—generated similar brain wave patterns in students.*

“The human brain has evolved for group living, yet we know so little about how it supports dynamic group interactions,” the study notes. Real-world social exchanges are a mystery and much previous research has been limited to artificial environments and simple tests. This effort, however, measured brainwave activity during face-to-face interaction in a natural rather than constructed environment, investigating social dynamics across time.”

“Classrooms make a particularly good place for neuro-scientific exploration because they’re lively—with lots of actors and factors at play—but also semi-controlled environments with limited influences and all activities led by a single teacher. “This allowed us to measure brain activity and behavior in a systematic fashion over the course of a full semester as students engaged,” the researchers explain.”

“The brainwaves of 12 teenage students’ brainwaves were recorded during 11 different classes throughout the semester; each session was 50 minutes long. The students followed live lectures, watched instructional videos, and participated in group discussions. Researchers tracked students’ brainwaves throughout using portable electroencephalogram (EEG) systems.”

“I support using teenagers for research subjects”

“The study tested the hypothesis that group members think similarly, and that the more engaged they are, the more similarly the think—and that this could be seen in shared brainwave patterns. The researchers believed that engagement predicts, and possibly underpins, classroom learning specifically and group dynamics generally. Indeed, they found that when students were more engaged in a teaching style—listening to a lecture versus watching a video, say—they were also more likely to show similar brainwaves.”

“That brainwave synchronicity seems to be generated from a number of small, individual interactions. Particular types of exchanges seemed to especially influence the meeting of the minds in the study, say the researchers. For example, eye contact was linked to shared intentions, which “sets up a scaffold” for social cognition and more engagement. These individual interactions seemed to lead to a shared sense of purpose across the group—which manifested in specific brainwave patterns, likewise shared across the group.”

The researchers believe their work with teens in the classroom—which wasn’t easy given the students’ energy levels and EEGs attached to their boisterous young brains—shows it is possible to investigate the neuroscience of group interactions under “ecologically natural circumstances.” They hope it leads to more exploration of brainwaves out in the wilderness that is civilization.

*The research, led by psychologist Suzanne Dikker at New York University