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Brain Beat: Meditation and the Brain

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The goal of meditation — the act of consciously directing one’s attention to alter one’s state of being — is to take control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful, focused, and more aware. Going beyond the mental and emotional benefits, a new field of study known as contemplative neuroscience is revealing the real, physical effects of meditation on the brain. Using modern neuroimaging and electrophysiological methods, scientists can measure how the brain changes in response to contemplative practices.

This week, neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson,director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University Wisconsin-Madison, will join other experts for a panel discussion about Tibetan Meditation, Brain, and the Arts (Thursday, January 27) and speak about how to Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind (Saturday, January 29). Visitors can also take part in Tibetan meditation at the Museum at one of many free meditation sessions led by Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan, abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in India. The Museum is celebrating Tibetan culture throughout the week, as part of the six-day Global Weekends: Brain and the Tibetan Creative Mind program, presented in conjunction with the exhibition Brain: The Inside Story.

In the meantime, check out a couple of recent articles on meditation and the brain:

Can meditation change your brain? Contemplative neuroscientists believe it can,” a post on the CNN Belief blog, explores recent studies on the effects of meditation on the brain, including those conducted by Davidson, that have found that committed meditators experienced long-term changes in brain function. Research has shown that regions of the brain associated with positive emotions indicated an increase in activity — even in novice meditators.

new study led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers indicates that mindfulness meditation training can change the brain’s structure in just eight weeks. Participants who meditated for about 27 minutes per day showed increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, the region of the brain important for memory and learning. Decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region of the brain that plays a role in anxiety and stress, was also apparent.

Tags: Brain

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