A video lecture by brain researcher Dr Fred Travis on the functioning of our brain during meditation.
Integrating a symphony of signals
“If you want a calm, alert mind, you need a restful brain,” Dr Travis says.
“The relationship goes the other way as well. The brain not only generates experience, but each experience we have changes the brain. Every time you have an experience, that particular network of neurons [connected with that sense perception] is getting a little stronger.
“Your brain is a river, not a rock. Indeed, 70 per cent of the synaptic connections between your brain cells change every day.
“You have 100 billion neurons, and each neuron is getting signals from about 10,000 other neurons each second. You can imagine getting 10,000 phone calls a second and trying to integrate it into one coherent output! That’s the life of your brain cells.”
How stress can affect your brain
“In college, students are often performing under great stress,” Dr Travis brings an example.
“This changes the brain. When you are under high stress and fatigue, what happens is what is called ‘downshifting’ — you shift down to a more primitive, robust way of functioning.
“Your sensory system talks to the motor system, and that’s it. You find yourself in a stimulus-response mode. Someone comes up and says, ‘Your hair doesn’t look too good today…’ and you get really, really angry!
“Because under stress and fatigue, the front part of the brain — the CEO, the center of executive functioning — is cut off. These parts are simply not used. And over time, if you are constantly stressed out and tired, this area starts to shrink in its activity and effectiveness.”