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. The so called grey matter (GM) of the brain is a region full of neuronal cells, and contains areas involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech and decisionmaking. And connected it to it is white matter (WM) — bundles of nerve cells that carry signals to GM. The hippocampus is a small organ located within the central region of the brain, and it registers and regulates emotions associated with memory (particularly long-term memory) and has front and back sections. The back part appears associated with better memory and supports recollection of memory. And the cortex, which is the outermost layer surrounding the brain (essentially a cover or envelope), with its tightly packed nerve cells, is responsible for higher thought processes such as decisionmaking.
The Indo-Italian team analysed the brain regions of the 21 Pandits and 21 control volunteers and found some remarkable differences between the two. They found the grey matter in Pandits to be denser and the cortex thicker than in ‘controls’, and the hippocampus regions, associated with long- and short-term memory was more pronounced. (Interested readers can access this paper free at <http:/dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.07.029>). Indeed, a similar experiment, again using Vedic Pandits (this time in Houston, TX, USA), was done earlier by Dr Giridhar Kalamangalam and T. M. Ellmore (accessible free in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014 Oct 20;8:833. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00833. eCollection 2014), and they too noted thicker cortex in the Pandits than in controls.
Importantly, these changes in the brain are not temporary but stay for long. That means that the power of memory, decisionmaking, sensory perception and such would last longer in those who were trained earlier. Dr Danker and Dr Anderson, who were studying this aspect, actually titled their 2010 review as “The ghosts of brain states past; remembering reactivates the brain regions engaged during coding” (Psychol. Bull., 136, 87-102. doi: 10.1037/a0017937). Here coding refers to the earlier rigorous practice and memorising.