One of the subjects that interest me most is the intersection of science and Buddhism as I highly value both. So, it is always enlightening and exciting to see where they meet and compliment each other. I have posted several articles showing the effects of mediation on the brain but this one triggered a fresh perspective to the subject--That being the interactions between the left and right hemispheres of the brain:
Enlightenment has been described in many ways, but what is common to most descriptions of enlightenment is a change in the sense of ‘self,’ and a sensation of a release from suffering. An enlightened person is said to no longer identify with herself as the individual she once was. She is also said to no longer experience negative thoughts.James: This has probably occurred to others but the explanation of the right brain, left brain interaction has really given me new insight into why duality is such a strong aspect to the human reality. And it's pretty impressive that science can now prove that meditation can literally rewire the brain to unlock a less volatile brain and thus mind.No wonder people are said to be "transformed" and a "new person altogether" or "reborn" when they realize enlightenment. They have finally mastered their brain and trained it with meditation and mindfulness to no longer express the dualistic nature of the mind. Buddhism and science are always amazing me with how much we still have to learn but also experience. Thus, the practice.
Our feeling part of our Self is located in the limbic system, in this case the amygdala. In most people, the left side feels pleasure or positive emotions, and the right side experiences negative emotions. In each case, the right (positive) and left (negative) components are synaptically ‘wired’ to each other. Thoughts and emotions are communicated back and forth between both sides of the the brain along the synapses. Now here is where meditation impacts these processes. Most meditative practices involve techniques to de-emphasize, defuse or reduce negative thoughts. Over the long term, what this means in the brain is that the transmission of electrical impulses into both the right side (negative) of both the amygdala and hippocampus is reduced. Fewer negative feelings and thoughts, less activity along those pathways.
Published studies support the idea that long term meditation works by ‘starving’ the brain of negative emotions and expectations. So meditation not only trains us not to respond as intensely and frequently to negative thoughts and emotions, it also causes an ‘atrophying’ of our brain’s ability to process those thoughts and emotions. But the caveat here, is that it takes a lot of consistent practice over the long term.