Neuroscience and The Sanskrit Effect: How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions

 / 

,
Neuroscience and The Sanskrit Effect How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions

Dr. James Hartzell, a world-renowned Neuroscientist, and a Sanskrit devotee coined the term “Sanskrit effect” in the journal Scientific American.

Dr. Hartzell has spent many years studying and translating the Sanskrit language and he noticed that his cognitive functions such as memory and decision making were greatly enhanced due to the Sanskrit language.

“I noticed that the more Sanskrit I studied and translated, the better my verbal memory seemed to become. Fellow students and teachers often remarked on my ability to exactly repeat the lecturers’ own sentences when asking them questions in class. Other translators of Sanskrit told me of similar cognitive shifts.”

India’s Vedic Sanskrit pandits train for years to orally memorize and exactly recite 3,000-year-old oral texts ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 words.

“We wanted to find out how such intense verbal memory training affects the physical structure of their brains.” states, Dr. James Hartzell

Dr. Hartzell got curious to find out if memorizing Sanskrit chants can have any effects on the cognitive functions of memory and decision making.

Related: Signs You Have A Negative Spirit Or Entity Attached To You (And Ways to Get Rid of It)

He formed a team comprising of his colleagues from the University of Trento in Italy and few doctors from the National Brain Research Centre in Haryana, India to undertake a formal study to find out the effects of Sanskrit language on the brain.

The study consisted of 42 volunteers, out of which 21 were professionally qualified Sanskrit pundits, aged around 21, who had been trained for 7 years in their childhood in reciting Shukla Yajurveda,(which is a Sacred Sanskrit text and takes six hours to chant) and another 21  regular males of similar age bracket from nearby colleges.

Brain Imaging

The study involved brain imaging of these 42 volunteers with a method called structural magnetic resonance using the magnetic resonance imaging instruments at NBRC, India.

The study enabled them to find out the shape and size of different regions of the brains of these individuals.

Related: Untreated Depression Can Change the Brain Over Time – Study Says

A Startling Discovery

“What we discovered from the structural MRI scanning was remarkable.

Numerous regions in the brains of the pandits were dramatically larger than those of controls, with over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness.

“Although the exact cellular underpinnings of grey matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.” Dr. James Hartzell

The results of the study were startling.

The team found out that the brain of the 21 Vedic pundits had denser grey matter as compared to the group of other 21 males.

The so-called grey matter of the brain is actually a region containing neuronal cells and areas responsible for:

  • Sensory perceptions
  • Memory
  • Speech
  • Muscle control and decision making.

And connected to it is the other part, i.e., the white matter of the brain -nerve cells that carry the signals to the grey matter part of the brain.

Changes in brain after religious chanting
Whole-brain VBM results in sub cortical and cerebellar regions, overlaid onto the group GM (grey matter) template (left hemisphere on left). (A) Cerebellar subregions where Pandits showed greater GM than controls. (B) Pandits showed greater GM than controls in the right medial posterior hippocampus; blue indicates anatomically-defined hippocampus mask. (C) Bilateral subcortical regions where Pandits showed less GM than controls: amygdala, caudate, anterior hippocampi, nucleus accumbens, putamen and thalamus. (D) Mean GM values for Pandits and controls for subcortical structures.
(Source:

Another important constituent in the human brain is Hippocampus:

Hippocampus is a small organ located in the middle region of the brain, responsible for registering and regulating all our emotions associated with memory (especially the long term memory) and has both front and back parts.

The back part is involved in memory and supports recollection of events.

And then there is another part called the Cortex:

Which is the outermost layer surrounding the brain, responsible for higher cognitive functions like decision making.

Related: How Cognitive Distortions Harm Us

After the study, it was found out that not only the grey matter was higher in brains of Vedic pundits but also their cortex region was thicker and the hippocampus was more prominent than the other set of 21 controls.

It has been proven by Neuroscience also that rigorous memorizing can have positive effects on the brain.

And therefore, it is not surprising to see that memorizing rigorous Sanskrit chants can improve the cognitive functions of memory and better thinking.

Related: 10 Signs You Are Experiencing A Re-Calibration Of Your Mind-Body-Soul System

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqgh6ugNfuY

Past Studies

It is believed that these texts contain positive vibrations that help to heal and calm a person and also help to increase the grey matter in the brain.

There have been similar experiments conducted in the past to find out the effect of chanting sacred texts on the brain.

Sanskrit Effect
Image of brain at rest. You can see there is activation of sending areas (red) and receiving areas (green)
(source: reference-3)
Sanskrit Effect
Brain after four rounds of the Pancha-tattva mantra and 30 mins of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Notice the decreased activation in the brain, and more rest than in the ‘resting state’.
(Source: reference- 3)

Even 50 years ago, when there were no brain imaging methods available, a French psychologist, found out that Christian monks who were into rigorous Gregorian Chanting had exceptional memory and grey matter.

In 1967, a French scientist, Alfred Tomatis, conducted a study to find out the effects of chanting on monks who had been part of a regime that required them to chant for up to 8 hours daily.

When a new pastor came and changed their routine, cutting down the chanting time, he noticed that the monks became tired and lethargic even though they were getting sufficient time to sleep.

Alfred Tomatis thought that the chanting actually energized their brains and bodies, so he conducted an experiment to reintroduce chanting into the daily routine of monks.

The results were interesting; the monks were full of energy and vitality again.

Other experiments were conducted by Dr. Giridhar Kalamangalam and T. M. Ellmore to study the effects of Vedic chants on the brain and they also found out that the Cortex region in the brains of Vedic pundits was thicker than their counterparts.

Related: 8 Mystical Meditation Mantras That Will Raise Your Consciousness

Utilizing the ancient wisdom to improve our cognitive functions

While all of us are aware of the benefits of Mindfulness and meditation practices, these findings bring in a new perspective on how we can utilize the ancient heritage of sacred chants to improve our cognitive functions of memory (both short term and long term) and decision making.

effect of meditation on brain
Brain activity of experienced Tibetan Buddhists before and during meditation. Image shows an increase in activity in the meditators’ frontal lobe, responsible for focusing attention and concentration, during meditation.
Source: (references -4)

In today’s digital age of shorter attention spans where even children are suffering from a variety of Attention deficit disorders and even the percentage of adults suffering from Alzheimer’s and other memory-related diseases is on an alarming rise, it is imperative that we tap into the ancient wisdom to improve our cognitive functions.

Related: 6 Things You Can Do To Reduce Mental Stress

Other Systemic Exercises

All these interesting findings also raise the possibility of including systemic exercises in our daily routine to improve the cognitive functions of our brain.

Just as physical exercise helps us to keep physically fit, mental exercises help to keep our brain fit by increasing the grey matter and thickness of the cortex region of the brain.

We can also include solving crossword puzzles or learning a new language or musical instrument in addition to learning Gregorian or Vedic texts chanting to keep our brains healthy.

Chanting in addition to cognitive functions of reading and writing to reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

In today’s digital age of shorter attention spans where even children are suffering from a variety of Attention deficit disorders and the percentage of adults suffering from Alzheimer’s and other memory-related diseases is on an alarming rise.

Even doctors are suggesting their patients inculcate the habit of reading, writing and memorizing a language to improve cognitive functions.

Related: 22 Tips to Keep Your brain Sharp and Young At Any Age 

While all of us are aware of the benefits of reading and writing practices, these findings bring in a new perspective on how we can utilize the ancient heritage of sacred chants to improve our cognitive functions of memory (both short term and long term) and decision making.

There can be no better way to improve our cognitive functions than learning and reciting the ancient Sanskrit chants. It not only improves our cognitive functions but also brings about peace and positive vibrations.

Enjoyed reading the article? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, let your friends know about the Sanskrit effect and help them too in developing a healthy brain.


References:

  1. https://upliftconnect.com/neuroscience-and-the-sanskrit-effect/ 
  2. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/the-sanskrit-effect-and-how-rigorous-memorising-helps-the-memory/article22436878.ece
  3. https://iskconnews.org/neurologists-study-shows-maha-mantra-could-help-anxiety-schizophrenia,5989/
  4. https://www.npr.org/2010/12/15/132078267/neurotheology-where-religion-and-science-collide

The Sanskrit Effect How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions
Neuroscience And The Sanskrit Effect: How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions
Neuroscience and The Sanskrit Effect How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions Pin
Neuroscience And The Sanskrit Effect: How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

Is Your Depression Causing Anger? 4 Crucial Reasons to Address It

Is Your Depression Causing Anger? Reasons to Address It

Do you find yourself caught in an emotional tug-of-war? Is your depression causing anger? If every little frustration feels like it could explode into rage and snapping at loved ones for no reason has become a common habit, learn the ways to help yourself with depression and anger.

As an effect of depression, anger is quite common because we get tired of managing our depressed moods and get frustrated. Eventually, this affects our psyche and generates byproducts like irritability which negatively influence our daily lives. 

In this blog, I will help you understand when depression causes anger and how to manage it.

Scientific Connection Between Depression and Anger



Up Next

Maladaptive Daydreaming: 5 Warning Signs That Your Inner World Is Distracting You

Maladaptive Daydreaming Symptoms: Warning Signs

If you frequently find yourself lost in your thoughts, consider learning about maladaptive daydreaming disorder to help yourself from being trapped in your imagination!

Taking a few moments to daydream can help a person take a break from reality and think more creatively or even solve problems. But when it goes too far, it becomes maladaptive daydreaming — an unhealthy preoccupation that can disrupt everyday life and damage relationships. Let’s learn more about it!

Read more here: The Fantasy Addict: 3 Signs To Watch For and How To Recover



Up Next

8 Everyday Habits That Are Damaging Your Brain (And What To Do Instead)

Everyday Habits That Are Damaging Your Brain

We all do things we know we shouldn’t- that we know are unhealthy. Skipping lunch because you woke up late for work, or staying up past bedtime binging on the new show on Netflix (because who can resist, right?). These might seem harmless, but some of these are habits that are damaging your brain.

Our brain is the most vital organ of our body. It is the main control center for everything we do. But is also surprisingly very delicate. And these little poor choices that I mentioned above are slowing down your brain.

But it’s not too late. Here are 8 daily habits that might be damaging your brain health, along with some tips on what you can (should) do instead:

8 Daily Habits That Are Damaging Your Brain



Up Next

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong: 7 Surprising Psychological Barriers You Didn’t Know About

Why Is It So Hard To Admit To Being Wrong? Psychological Reasons You Need To Know

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a heated debate, feeling that gnawing sensation that you might be wrong, but don’t want to admit it? Or maybe you are watching someone double down on their stance, even when all evidence points to the contrary, and wondering, “Why can’t they just say they’re wrong?” It’s a common scenario that plays out in classrooms, workplaces, and even family dinners, leaving many of us puzzled about why it is so hard to admit to being wrong.

Admitting we’re wrong isn’t just about swallowing our pride. For some people, admitting an error feels like a failure on a personal level, thus threatening their self-esteem and identity. Others worry about being judged and what consequences may follow. It’s not stubbornness alone, but this innate fear of exposure and vulnerability that makes it hard to



Up Next

Are Music and Personality Traits Connected? Exposing Secrets of Your Music Taste

Music and Personality Connection: Powerful Traits

Whether you’re a die-hard rock fan, a classical music lover, or a pop enthusiast, your playlist might just be the key to understanding who you truly are. Music lovers, prepare to have your minds blown! Let’s dive deep into the fascinating connection between music and personality.

Get ready to discover how your favorite tunes might be spilling your deepest secrets. Your playlist could reveal hidden traits you never knew you had! Let’s hit play!

Are Music and Personality Traits Connected?



Up Next

3 Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking: It Worked For Me!

Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking: Master Self-Regulation

As someone who struggled to recognize negative thinking in myself, it took some time to understand I was doing it as a self-defense mechanism. I felt like I “had to” think negatively to keep myself safe. After a series of negative consequences, I discovered three easy steps to help stop negative thinking.

Negativity is not just in your thinking but also in your bad habits. It is also the words and vibes of others that you absorb. Unfortunately, we do not always have a way out of it.

3 Actionable Hacks To Stop Negative Thinking

Understanding the “why” behind your actions, responses, reactions, and behavior is necessary for your well-being. Negativity can sometimes come from our incorrect way of dealing with situat



Up Next

9 Habits Of Highly Intelligent People That Sets Them Apart

Habits Of Highly Intelligent People That Sets Them Apart

Understanding the habits of highly intelligent people can offer useful clues about what sets them apart from the rest of us. 

Intelligence is multi-dimensional, but it is your habits that show how well you can use it in life. Such routines determine the course of our lives and therefore we should adopt those that have long-term advantages for us.

So today, let’s talk about nine such habits that will lead you to health and success in every area of your life! How many do you have?