Neural mechanisms of mindfulness and meditation: Evidence from neuroimaging studies

World J Radiol. 2014 Jul 28;6(7):471-9. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v6.i7.471.


Mindfulness is the dispassionate, moment-by-moment awareness of sensations, emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness-based interventions are being increasingly used for stress, psychological well being, coping with chronic illness as well as adjunctive treatments for psychiatric disorders. However, the neural mechanisms associated with mindfulness have not been well characterized. Recent functional and structural neuroimaging studies are beginning to provide insights into neural processes associated with the practice of mindfulness. A review of this literature revealed compelling evidence that mindfulness impacts the function of the medial cortex and associated default mode network as well as insula and amygdala. Additionally, mindfulness practice appears to effect lateral frontal regions and basal ganglia, at least in some cases. Structural imaging studies are consistent with these findings and also indicate changes in the hippocampus. While many questions remain unanswered, the current literature provides evidence of brain regions and networks relevant for understanding neural processes associated with mindfulness.

Keywords: Emotional control; Medial cortex, amygdala; Meditation; Mindfulness.

Publication types

  • Review