The Neuroscience of Meditation

Walter van den Broek
February 12, 2010

Meditation is different from rest or sleep. It’s a wakeful hypometabolic state with lowered sympathetic activity as opposed to the fight and flight reactions which requires an active sympathetic system. Parasympathetic activity is increased which is important for relaxation and rest. This increase of parasympathetic state is characterized by reduced heart rate, lower systolic blood pressure, lower oxygen metabolism, and an increase of skin resistance. So it’s not only a rest state but also physiological relaxation related to to stress relief.

But what is the effect of meditation on the brain?

During meditation not only general relaxation is experienced but also a reduction of mental activity and positive affect. During meditation the reduced mental activity is mediated by increased activation of networks of internalized attention which trigger the activity in regions that mediate positive emotions. Networks related to external attention and irrelevant processes are decreased in activity.
The networks activated for internal attention and positive mood are mainly located in the frontal and subcortical brain regions. The positive affect more specifically increases the activity in the left prefrontal and limbic region of the brain. The internal focused attention is thought to originate in an activation of frontal and thalamic region of the brain. There’s also some evidence that experienced meditators show these activations and deactivations in a greater extend compared to novices in the field of meditation.

In conclusion, there is converging evidence that fronto-parietal and fronto-limbic brain networks seem to be activated in the attention practices that lead to Meditation, presumably reflecting processes of internalised sustained attention and emotion regulation.

One should keep in mind that these findings relate to meditation in general. Different kinds of meditations can result in slightly different activation and deactivation patterns. Different brain activation networks can thus be activated by different Meditation traditions. These findings mostly result from comparison of small groups of experienced meditators compared to novices.

ResearchBlogging.org
Rubia, K. (2009). The neurobiology of Meditation and its clinical effectiveness in psychiatric disorders Biological Psychology, 82 (1), 1-11 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.04.003

 

7 Responses to “The Neuroscience of Meditation”

  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  1. [...] Go to Publisher to continue reading [...]

  2. Science Report » Blog Archive » The Neuroscience of Meditation on February 13th, 2010 at 3:01 am
  3. Great entry. I really believe that through mindfulness meditation we can improve the relationship with ourselves and the people around us significantly. More research on the topic by D. Richardson and Dan Siegel shows the applicability and even short-term results of meditation on the human brain (also see http://zen-venture.com/2010/03/17/dawn-of-the-mind-on-cultivating-attention-and-happiness/ )…

    Just a fascinating field to explore.

    Good luck and best wishes,

    Vincent

  4. Vincent on March 30th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  5. Since I began meditation many years ago, my life changed dramatically. I find I sleep better, I can focus on my daily tasks with more clarity and things that previously annoyed me just pass on without any dramas.

  6. Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am
  7. Hi there! Been thinking if meditation could help me with my problems, how would I know what certain meditation is for me or effective for me? Thanks! (-:

  8. Anna Houck on September 14th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. Ask your physician, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on September 14th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
  11. Dr. Shock,

    I believe the field of traditional medicine is growing in the western hemisphere. In the past, Western medicine opposed traditional medicine due to lack of scientific validy but new research has demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on not only the brain but overall human health.
    Currently, I am studying History and Psychology at Austin College, in Sherman,TX and I hope to continue my education in Health Psychology. My main interest is in Chinese Medical Qigong, a traditional science/medicine that has been practiced in China for many years. Qigong has been effective in promoting mental as well as physical health and longetivity. My dream is to conduct research on qigong and to shed scientific knowledge on a traditional practice.

    Cesar

  12. Cesar A.Sotelo on January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am
  13. [...] The Neuroscience of Meditation | Dr Shock MD PhD Feb 12, 2010 … Brenda Freeman on July 16th, 2010 at 4:36 am … on not only the brain but overall human health. … [...]

  14. brenda freeman group health | Beaty and Health on April 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 pm

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