Neuroscience and mindfulness meditation

Tang, Y.-Y., & Leve, L. D. (2016). A translational neuroscience perspective on mindfulness meditation as a prevention strategy. Translational Behavioral Medicine, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 63–72. Full text.

See also: MacKinnon, M. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness: How the default mode network helps explain the benefit of a deep breath. Psychology Today. Full text.

Mindfulness meditation research mainly focuses on psychological outcomes such as behavioral, cognitive, and emotional functioning. However, the neuroscience literature on mindfulness meditation has grown in recent years.

This paper provides an overview of relevant neuroscience and psychological research on the effects of mindfulness meditation. We propose a translational* prevention framework of mindfulness and its effects. Drawing upon the principles of prevention science, this framework integrates neuroscience and prevention research and postulates underlying brain regulatory mechanisms that explain the impact of mindfulness on psychological outcomes via self-regulation mechanisms linked to underlying brain systems.

We conclude by discussing potential clinical and practice implications of this model and directions for future research.

* “The term translational medicine was introduced in the 1990s but only gained wide usage in the early 2000s. Its definition varies according to the stakeholder. Patients, physicians, and other practitioners tend to use the term to refer to the need to accelerate the incorporation of benefits of research into clinical medicine and to close the gap between “what we know” and “what we practice.” Academics tend to interpret translational medicine as the testing of novel concepts from basic research in clinical situations, which in turn provide opportunity for the identification of new concepts. In industry it is used in reference to a process that is aimed at expediting the development and commercialization of known therapies. Although different, these interpretations are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they reflect different priorities for achieving a common goal.” (