Anatomy 101: The Brain Science Behind Meditation


Humans possess a unique superpower among those in the animal kingdom: the ability to evaluate the past and plan for the future. Unfortunately, this evolutionary advancement comes at an emotional cost—regret and worry, both often the result of not being in the moment. Research shows that the more time you spend mind-wandering (not being present) the less happy you’re likely to be. In fact, humans devote a whopping 47 percent of their waking hours to mentally time-traveling.

The secret to meditation
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See also The Big Brain Benefits of Meditation

Fortunately, you can develop present-moment awareness through meditation. Recent advances in two key scientific areas of study—neuroimaging and neurochemistry—allow us to see the measurable brain changes that result from meditation and lead to improved cognition and mood.


Modern neuroimaging technology like fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machines provide more detailed brain scans than ever before. Researchers can now see the long-term effects of practicing meditation on neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to form new connections, especially in response to learning or experiencing something new.

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