Home Psychology The Sanskrit Effect: Scientists Discover That Reciting Mantras Boosts Memory

The Sanskrit Effect: Scientists Discover That Reciting Mantras Boosts Memory


If you have experimented with the meditative techniques, it would not come as a surprise to you that many of the meditations include chanting and reciting mantras in Sanskrit. While these mantras usually come with a religious meaning, it turns out that their use extends to boosting your brain to an incredible extent.

James Hartzell, a postdoctoral researcher at Spain’s Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language, being a Sanskrit devotee himself, decided to look into the neurological implications and the efficacy of the “Sanskrit effect.”

To do so, he started analyzing the Hindu scholars (pandits) who honor millennia-old mnemonic techniques for memorizing hundreds of thousands of words. Being aware of the cognitive effects of meditation, he wanted to see if the thousands of hours of memorization that these scholars performed had any effect on the physical structure of their brains.

For this purpose, Hartzell recruited 42 professional Vedic pandits with at least a decade of continual practice and compared their MRI brain scans with those of people with not even a similar experience or practice. He came to an astounding discovery:

“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 gray matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.”

The most prominent effect could be seen in the pandits’ hippocampi, where we record new information and convert it to long-term memory. The fact that the right hippocampi (there are two), which deal with patterns, were most affected came as no surprise to Hartzell.

Another significant difference in the brain structure was an increase in the thickness of the participants’ right temporal cortices, the function of which is voice identity and speech prosody.

“This raises the possibility that verbal memory “exercising” or training might help elderly people at risk of mild cognitive impairment retard or, even more radically, prevent its onset,” notes Hartzell.

Even if it’s not Sanskrit chanting, in particular, any form of verbal recitation in any given language can prove to be as effective as the mantras. This is because the Sanskrit Effect is one of language and memory.

So, add a little flavor to your daily routine and learn a poem or a mantra by heart. Sit quietly and hear yourself saying it and allow your brain to grow and improve with it.

Do you chant mantras? Tell us about your experience!

Mary Wright


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