The Influence of Buddhist Meditation Traditions on the Autonomic System and Attention

Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:731579. doi: 10.1155/2015/731579. Epub 2015 Jun 4.


Cognitive and neuroscience research from the past several years has shed new light on the influences that meditative traditions have on the meditation practice. Here we review new evidence that shows that types of meditation that developed out of certain traditions such as Vajrayana and Hindu Tantric lead to heightened sympathetic activation and phasic alertness, while types of meditation from other traditions such as Theravada and Mahayana elicit heightened parasympathetic activity and tonic alertness. Such findings validate Buddhist scriptural descriptions of heightened arousal during Vajrayana practices and a calm and alert state of mind during Theravada and Mahayana types of meditation and demonstrate the importance of the cultural and philosophical context out of which the meditation practices develop.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Buddhism*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Meditation*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology*