Neuroscience proves meditation makes your brain work better | VailDaily.com

Neuroscience proves meditation makes your brain work better

“Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind” with Marjorie Hines Woollacott, Ph.D., is being presented Thursday evening by the Vail Symposium. A workshop is scheduled for Friday morning.

If You Go …

What: “Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind,” with Marjorie Hines Woollacott, Ph.D.

When: Thursday, April 20; 5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. program

Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: $25 online general admission, $35 at the door, or $10 for students and teachers.

What: “The Nature of Consciousness: Can We Reconcile Scientific and Experiential Perspectives?” with Marjorie Hines Woollacott, Ph.D.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 21.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: $40

More information: Visit http://www.vailsymposium.org, or call 970-476-0954 to register for either or both.

VAIL – Your brain is complex, but meditation makes it work better, says neuroscientist, Marjorie Hines Woollacott, Ph.D.

Woollacott is a research scientist and university professor who was certain that the brain was a purely physical entity controlled by chemicals and electrical pulses. Consciousness, she used to assert, was what she and her highly trained brain could perceive.

Meditation taught her to think outside the box, and the box is our bodies and physical perceptions. Her scientific research about meditation found that consciousness extends beyond the brain.

brain activity

She has been conducting scientific research for 10 years.

Her sister meditated and introduced her to it. Woollacott loves her, but dismissed her was one of those "Woo-woo" people.

"My boyfriend called her a bubblehead," Woollacott said.

Her sister invited her to a meditation confab in upstate New York. Woollacott was skeptical but wanted to visit my sister, so she went. The yogi touched Woollacott's head and she felt an energy flow through her head and down to heart. She was amazed, but still a scientist.

"There were no scientific findings about this," Woollacott said, so she started her own study. "The scientific mind in me thought this was too way out there."

'neurons in your brain'

In a controlled laboratory setting, people strapped on gear that attached 256 electrodes on their heads. Woollacott measured the amount of attention they were giving complex tasks, and found that meditators had twice the mental acuity of sedentary adults. Meditation quiets the mind and trains the brain to focus on the task at hand, she said.

"When your mind is quiet and it's not distracted by a million thoughts," Woollacott said.

"As a scientist, consciousness is solely the product of neurons in my brain," Woollacott said. "But because I've had experiences in meditation that tell me otherwise, I've now done research to say it's much more, and that consciousness can exist without the activity of neurons in my brain and that we have a connection with a vast consciousness that we are part of. That more vast consciousness contracts down into our own awareness. In certain moments, it can expand back outward — that connects us with other parts of reality."

Woollacott herself meditates, which is how she started down this road. She will speak about her findings in a Vail Symposium Consciousness Series program today at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. She's also conducting a workshop Friday morning.

The Friday morning workshop will be less of a lecture and more experiential, as Woollacott leads participants in an in-depth exploration of the nature of consciousness from both the scientific perspective and that of direct experience, discussing how each contributes to a complete understanding of the topic.

Woollacott has been a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon for more than three decades and a meditator for almost four. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has written more than 180 peer-reviewed research articles, several about meditation

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.