The ‘Sanskrit effect’:Improving memory

Research

Memorising Sanskrit mantras may help increase the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function, including memory and thinking skills, says a report in the Scientific American.

The research carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Trento, Italy analysed a group of verbal memory specialists (professional Vedic pandits) to determine whether there is a link between intensive oral text memory and physical structure of the brain – structural features of hippocampal and lateral-temporal regions implicated in language processing

Finding

Results from the MRI scan of the brains of pandits revealed increases in grey matter density and cortical thickness in language, memory and visual systems.

Their findings also revealed that the pandits’ right hippocampus had more grey matter than controls across nearly 75 percent of this subcortical structure.

Brain imaging

The brains of all the 42 participants were examined using the method called structural magnetic resonance, with the magnetic resonance imaging instrument at NBRC. This method allows the study of the size and shape of individual parts of brain.

Systemic exercise

We may exert or exercise our brains by doing “memory training,” even during later life when we are old, and need not have been Pandits, Gregorian monks or London cabbies.

It is also important to realise that one need not attach any special power to Shukla Yajurveda as a brain enhancer.

Fifty years ago, a French scientist noted that Christian monks who chanted the Gregorian Chants have exceptional memory (though no brain scanning methods were available at that time). Further, it need not be verbal or religious chanting at all. It could be visual and spatial training too.

Grey Matter 

Grey matter (or gray matter) is a major component of the central nervous system, consisting of neuronal cell bodies, neuropil (dendrites and myelinated as well as unmyelinated axons), glial cells (astrocytes and oligodendrocytes), synapses, and capillaries. Grey matter is distinguished from white matter, in that it contains numerous cell bodies and relatively few myelinated axons, while white matter contains relatively few cell bodies and is composed chiefly of long-range myelinated axon tracts.

Functions

Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.[4]

The grey matter in the spinal cord is split into three grey columns:

  • The anterior grey column contains motor neurons. These synapse with interneurons and the axons of cells that have travelled down the pyramidal tract. These cells are responsible for the movement of muscles.
  • The posterior grey column contains the points where sensory neurons synapse. These receive sensory information from the body, including fine touch, proprioception, and vibration. This information is sent from receptors of the skin, bones, and joints through sensory neurons whose cell bodies lie in the dorsal root ganglion. This information is then transmitted in axons up the spinal cord in spinal tracts, including the dorsal column-medial lemniscus tract and the spinothalamic tract.
  • The lateral grey column is the third column of the spinal cord.

The grey matter of the spinal cord can be divided into different layers, called Rexed laminae. These describe, in general, the purpose of the cells within the grey matter of the spinal cord at a particular location.

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