Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 Nov;6(6):537-59. doi: 10.1177/1745691611419671.

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective.

Author information

1
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA britta@nmr.mgh.harvard.edu.
2
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
3
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
4
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
5
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.

Abstract

Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions. Although the number of publications in the field has sharply increased over the last two decades, there is a paucity of theoretical reviews that integrate the existing literature into a comprehensive theoretical framework. In this article, we explore several components through which mindfulness meditation exerts its effects: (a) attention regulation, (b) body awareness, (c) emotion regulation (including reappraisal and exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation), and (d) change in perspective on the self. Recent empirical research, including practitioners' self-reports and experimental data, provides evidence supporting these mechanisms. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neuroscientific processes underlying these components. Evidence suggests that mindfulness practice is associated with neuroplastic changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, and default mode network structures. The authors suggest that the mechanisms described here work synergistically, establishing a process of enhanced self-regulation. Differentiating between these components seems useful to guide future basic research and to specifically target areas of development in the treatment of psychological disorders.

KEYWORDS:

anxiety disorders; attention; cognition; consciousness; neuroscience; positive psychology; stress disorders

PMID:
26168376
DOI:
10.1177/1745691611419671

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center