[INDOLOGY] Brains of Yajurveda Pandits are different

David Mellins dmellins at gmail.com
Wed Aug 5 16:58:18 UTC 2015

apokigies for my publically extending my exuberance.


Fabid Mellins

Sent from my iPhone

> On Aug 5, 2015, at 12:17 PM, James Hartzell <james.hartzell at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear all,
> Herewith a link to the published (in Neuroimage, open access), peer-reviewed study we did of the brain structure of Delhi-area, qualified Yajurveda Pandits from government Vedic schools.  I hope this may be of some interest and/or use to some members of the list.
> http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811915006382?np=y
> We found very large changes in the grey matter (neuronal tissue) of the Yajurveda Pandits' brains.  The evidence we found strongly suggests that 7-10 years of intensive, professional-level training in memorizing and reciting the Yajurveda Samhita (and related texts) is associated with some of the largest changes in brain structure ever reported for a cross-sectional study (i.e. one that compares two closely matched groups, here two groups that differ primarily in the Yajurveda training).  
> Article Title:  Brains of verbal memory specialists show anatomical differences in language, memory and visual systems
> Authors:  James F. Hartzell,  Ben Davis, David Melcher, Gabriele Miceli, Jorge Jovicich, Tanmay Nath, Nandini Chatterjee Singh, Uri Hasson
> Highlights:
> •  We compared professional Sanskrit verbal memory specialists and well-matched controls.
> •  We measured cortical thickness (CT), gray matter density (GM), and gyrification (LGI).
> •  Pandits showed increases in CT and GM in lateral temporal cortices.
> •  Pandits showed relative decrease in subcortical GM and occipital LGI.
> •  Findings suggest brain organization supporting intensive oral memorization/recitation.
> Abstract: 
> We studied a group of verbal memory specialists to determine whether intensive oral text memory is associated with structural features of hippocampal and lateral-temporal regions implicated in language processing. Professional Vedic Sanskrit Pandits in India train from childhood for around 10 years in an ancient, formalized tradition of oral Sanskrit text memorization and recitation, mastering the exact pronunciation and invariant content of multiple 40,000–100,000 word oral texts. We conducted structural analysis of gray matter density, cortical thickness, local gyrification, and white matter structure, relative to matched controls. We found massive gray matter density and cortical thickness increases in Pandit brains in language, memory and visual systems, including i) bilateral lateral temporal cortices and ii) the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, regions associated with long and short-term memory. Differences in hippocampal morphometry matched those previously documented for expert spatial navigators and individuals with good verbal working memory. The findings provide unique insight into the brain organization implementing formalized oral knowledge systems.
> ---
> This is the first of two papers from my current PhD project in Cognitive Neuroscience.  The second paper will examine in detail what preliminary evidence suggests are extensive differences in the white matter (neuronal axon) tracts in the Pandit brains compared to controls.  
> We are, by the way, actively seeking postdoctoral funding to continue the project -- our PhD funding finishes in October 2015.  Any suggestions for potential funding sources are most welcome (off-list), as are any questions about the published work (either on- or off-list).
> Cheers
> James Hartzell, PhD
> Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC)
> The University of Trento, Italy
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