This month’s Trends in Cognitive Sciences has a fantastic review article on the neuroscience of meditation – focusing on how the contemplative practice alters and sharpens the brain’s attention systems.
The full article is available online as a pdf, and discusses what cognitive science studies have told us about the short and long-term impact of meditation on the mind and brain.
A recent review of ‘mindfulness’ meditation-based therapy found that although research is in its early stages and not all possibilities have been ruled out, there’s good evidence from the existing RCTs that it’s particularly good in preventing relapse in severe depression.
Though Vaughan notes that some of the meditational techniques used in these studies are taken from Buddhist meditation practices (and the role that the interest that the science-savvy Dalai Lama have shown on such scientific studies), such practices are also used in several of the Indian meditational practices and schools — though, to be fair to Buddhists, I think, they are the first ones to secularise meditational practices by noting that any word can be used for meditation and that there is no special power associated with any mantra or special word.
Take a look!