News - Brain Scans Tell Why Meditation Works
by Life Positive
Brain scans show that putting negative emotions into words calms the brain's emotion centre. That could explain meditation's purported emotional benefits, because people who meditate often label their negative emotions in an effort to "let them go."
Psychologists have long believed that people who talk about their feelings have more control over them, but they don't know why it works. UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman and his colleagues hooked 30 people up to functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) machines, which scan the brain to reveal which parts are active and inactive at any given moment.
They asked the subjects to look at pictures of male or female faces making emotional expressions. Below some of the photos was a choice of words describing the emotion - such as ‘angry’ or ‘fearful’, or two possible names for the people in the pictures, one male name and one female name.
When presented with these choices, the subjects were asked to pick the most appropriate emotion or gender-appropriate name to fit the face they saw. When the participants chose labels for the negative emotions, activity in the right ventrolateral pref-rontal cortex region – an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences – became more active, whereas activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, was calmed. By contrast, when the subjects picked appropriate names for the faces, the brain scans revealed none of these changes, indicating that only emotional labeling makes a difference.
"In the same way you hit the brake when you're driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emtional responses," Lieberman said of his study, which is detailed in the current issue of Psychological Science.
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