Meditation, cognitive reserve and the neural basis of consciousness
Meditative techniques are powerful tools to explore the splendour of our inner world of consciousness. Meditation practices are intense, sensory, emotional and cognitive experiences that help to establish deep relaxation, emotional stability and resilience to stress, a positive attitude, enhanced self-awareness and self-regulation through a perfect body-mind harmony. Very long-term intense meditation practices also help to develop various higher mental attributes such as wellbeing, compassion, environmental mastery, personal growth, self-realisation and altruism. The establishment of such higher mental attributes reflects the galvanising power of meditation to kindle the countless dimensions of cognitive reserve capacities and the transformation of network properties of the brain, such as those associated with attention, executive functions and memory formation. Modern scientific studies have provided ample evidence of enhanced structural plasticity, fibre tract integrity, enhanced brain synchrony and oscillations that reflect general aspects of meditation effects. Such practices make the brain more resilient by bringing about anatomical and functional variability at the network levels, leading to increased performance and mental capabilities, and the distinct qualia that are often described in subjective reports of long-term meditators. We are yet to understand the nuances of brain and mind relations and the inner world of consciousness. Our studies on the neural correlates of meditation and yogic practices—Vipassana meditation, Sudarshan Kriya yoga and Rāja yoga meditation—together with the studies on dysfunctional brain mechanisms associated with schizophrenia, provide us with valuable information on the cognitive reserve capacity as well as the phenomenon of brain plasticity. The empirical evidence from our studies help us to look at the nuances of brain network, meditation and the attainment of meta-consciousness. A better understanding of these would help in developing a possible meditation-based approach to improve the challenges in self-regulation and self-awareness implicated in mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Kutty, B. M. (2017)., Meditation, cognitive reserve and the neural basis of consciousness, in S. Menon, N. Nagaraj & V. V. Binoy (eds.), Self, culture and consciousness, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 51-58.
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