“Altered Traits”: measuring concentration


Another measure of concentration was to see how distracted the meditators are by emotional sounds—laughing, screaming, crying—which they heard in the background while focusing on the light.


The more amygdala activation in response to those sounds, the more wavering in concentration.


Among meditators with the greatest amount of lifetime practice hours—an average of 44,000 lifetime hours (the equivalent of twelve hours a day for ten years) the amygdala hardly responded to the emotional sounds.


But for those with less practice, (though still a high number—19,000 hours) the amygdala also showed a robust response.


There was a staggering 400 percent difference in the size of the amygdala response between these groups!


This indicates an extraordinary selectivity of attention: a brain effortlessly able to block out the extraneous sounds and the emotional reactivity they normally elicit.


What’s more, this means traits continue to alter even at the highest level of practice.


The dose-response relationship does not seem to end even up to 50,000 hours of practice.


The finding of a switch to effortlessness in brain function among the most highly experienced yogis was only possible because Richie’s group had assessed total lifetime hours of meditation practice.



Lacking that simple metric, this valuable finding would have been buried in the general comparison between novices and experts.

3 responses to this post.

  1. This is the first I have heard about amygdala. I’ve learned about the brain but it never stuck. Wow, you have opened my eyes. definitely researching more about this amygdala. You learn something new every day.Thank you!

  2. Posted by jeanetteirene on May 4, 2018 at 3:46 am

    That is a nice article to consider as I practice mindfulness. I struggle in holding meditation. Mindfulness has allowed me to come to peace in the present moments, while interacting with life in a fully present state. I know it is a form of meditation….. but not as accomplished as one of the yogis described.

  3. The amygdala is tasked with our defense and is not accessible consciously. It has power over our nervous system. We Meditate to make friends with it bringing inner peace and calm to our life.

    With this new book I am reading Altered Traits not many on this planet reach awakening or yogi status. Now they say it takes a minimal of 44,000 hours of meditation. Skilled meditation with extended retreats added in. That is 12 hours a day for 10years.

    Or 4 hours a day for three decades.

    Very few awakened beings on this planet.

    But with a combination of neuroscience, aeorobic exercise and meditation we can impact our lives with a modest daily practice.

    Applying our practice during the day enhances the benefits.

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