A recent study at New York University aims to use monks to help cure Alzheimer’s.
The neuroscientists are using functional MRIs (fMRIs) to map the brains of monks engaged in non-dual meditations. While the monks are experiencing the bliss of oneness, the scientists are hard at work, charting what the monks’ brains are up to. Scientists Zoran Josipovic and David Heeger predict they’ll see similarities between the monks’ meditating brains and the brains of patients with dementia. However, unlike the monks, people with Alzheimer’s cannot control the focus of their thoughts. This fundamental difference could point in the direction of a cure.
Most people take turns thinking about their internal world, and the external world. This process is a push-pull relationship. In Alzheimer’s patients, their internal self-related thinking—the default network—doesn’t turn off when it should. “Presumably, in the meditators’ case, maybe it’s all cognitive; maybe they have the ability to say, ‘Now I want to control these two [networks] together,'” says Jessica Andrews-Hanna, a default-networks expert. “If you can turn the brain regions on and off when you want, that’s great.”
But what do the participants think of all this? “In Buddhism, we are used to meditating through distractions,” says Lama Karma Drodhul after an fMRI session. “It was fun.”
For the complete story, click here.