Our Brains on "OM"

 

Over the years I have witnessed students new and old that may be uncomfortable or at times adamantly adverse about the use of Mantras and resisted changing their minds. Once learned the brain prefers to stay with established neural networks because it uses less energy. So, new experiences naturally get people uncomfortable.

However, recent neuroscience research demonstrates if we see a pleasurable outcome or benefit from moving through the resistance or comfortableness of pursuing something new or different that rattles our comfort zone, we will usually explore it.

Here's a compelling reason to add Mantras to one's Yoga Practice. Neuroscience has validated the benefit of them.

A 2011 study Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study validates the use of the commonly used mantra "OM". It quiets our brain's Default Mode Network. 

The DMN when left to wander can ruminate on negative thoughts, since the brain has a natural negative bias that generate Thalamic activity. The thalamus does not care if the stimulus is coming from the outside world or if it is from our own thoughts (thinking about your past, wondering about our future), it can stimulate our reactions and especially our stress reactions; and most of our stress can come from our own thoughts; especially our negative thoughts.

Repeating simple mantra "OM" turns down this network, and neuroscience has validated the calming effect of mantras.

The use of "OM", produced deactivation of thalami (A) and limbic structures - anterior cingulum (B), hippocampi (C), insula (D) and parahippocampi (E);

 

 fMRI Images of brain on OM

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099099/

Brain regions with significant deactivation during ‘OM’ condition in comparison with “REST” condition

Brain region**XYZTFWE-p*
Right amygdala 24 -10 -08 5.2 <0.001
Left anterior cingulate gyrus -02 45 -02 10.2 <0.001
Right anterior cingulate gyrus 12 49 -01 9.8 <0.001
Left hippocampus -32 -18 -11 6.5 <0.001
Right hippocampus 30 -31 -05 4.6 <0.001
Left insula -28 19 -06 6.5 <0.001
Right insula 38 15 -06 4.9 <0.001
Left orbitofrontal cortex -28 29 -08 6.6 <0.001
Right orbitofrontal cortex 30 29 -08 7.3 <0.001
Left parahippocampal gyrus -30 -20 -21 5.1 <0.001
Right parahippocampal gyrus 32 -28 -22 5.0 <0.001
Left thalamus -14 -05 13 6.6 <0.001
Right thalamus 16 -07 11 6.2 <0.001

**X, Y, Z Talairach coordinates of peak activation *Family-wise error corrected ‘P’ value

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099099/

Want to see if it works for you? Try this simple mantra "OM"

Practice OM at the beginning and end of your NeuroYoga session or breathing session in order to settle into and calm your mind (or at any other times you want its powerful influence). Focus solely on the experience of the Mantra, the breath and sensations in your body. Observe and feel the vibration that it produces.

It can help calm our overly active neural networks and quite our Default Mode Networks.

Related:
Our Brains on "Kirtan Kriya" Meditation

Keith Engelhardt
"NeuroYoga" Zone ™
Transform the tyranny of stress to tranquility!
A better brain makes a better life
Reduce your stress, improve your brain, get stronger, healthier, more relaxed, and self-actualize!

 

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