The researchers, led by neuroscientist Sarah Lazar, scanned the brains of 20 people with long-term experience of meditation, and compared them with 20 other, non-meditating people.
Brain regions associated with attention, sensation, perception and monitoring the body’s internal state were thicker in meditation participants than in the comparison group.
There is now increasing evidence – in line with a 2000 study, that reported that London Taxi drivers may have a larger hippocampus (an area of the brain known to be crucial for navigation), that mental practice may alter the brain’s structure on a relatively large scale.
Update: Grabbed from the comments page… Some cautionary words on interpreting ’cause’ from this sort of study (Thanks ‘Coffee Mug’!):
The only way to say that meditation can alter the structure of the brain would be to do a longitudinal study following people who hadn’t chosen to meditate prior to the study. Otherwise you run into the same problem as you did with the London cabbie study. Correlation is not causation. People born with bigger hippocampi might self-select as cab-drivers. People with bigger ‘attention centers’ might be more predisposed to get into meditation.