CAN a mouse be mindful?
Cute? Check. Fuzzy? Check. Excellent meditators? You bet.
Scientists at the University of Oregon are using mice to study the effects of meditation on the brain. Through special breeding and the ability to activate theta-wave activity, these researchers are learning more and more about the way the human brain and meditation work hand-in-hand for better health.
Human experiments show that meditation reduces anxiety and levels of stress hormones, and improves attention and cognition. Studies indicate that meditation affects communication around the anterior cingulate cortex — a brain region that regulates the fear response.
Michael Posner at the University of Oregon wondered how meditation could do this. He thought it might be related to changes in theta brainwaves, a type of brain activity that increases after meditation, even when people are no longer meditating.
To test the theory, the team genetically engineered certain mouse brain cells to be switched on by light. In this way, they were able to use pulses of light on mice to stimulate theta-brainwave-like activity around the anterior cingulate cortex.
Read more about this exciting study here.