Buddhist meditation and well being: scientific research

Prepared by Dr. Peter Malinowski

Dr. Peter Malinowski

Dr. Peter Malinowski

Dr. Peter Malinowski is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the School of Natural Sciences & Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University. He is also a close student of Lama Ole Nydahl, a founding member of the Liverpool Diamond Way Buddhist Centre, travelling teacher, trustee of Diamond Way Buddhism UK, and has been instrumental in the establishment of Diamond Way Buddhism in the UK, particularly in the North of England, since 2001. In this brief article he presents an overview of contemporary research into the psychological and physiological effects of Buddhist meditation.

A growing number of scientific studies support the idea that regular Buddhist meditation practice improves psychological and physiological well being. In several experiments it has been shown that experienced meditators have improved attentional and cognitive abilities [1-4], which are considered to be cornerstones for a healthier appraisal of potentially stressful situations and for psychological well being in general [5]. Furthermore, first studies indicate a link between regular Buddhist meditation practice and changes in brain activity that are indicative of increased dispositional positive mood [6,7]. There also appears to be a direct link between Buddhist meditation practice and improvements of the immune response of the body [6]. Meditation may also have some neuroprotective effects, delaying the aging process of the brain. Several studies show larger thickness of some areas of the cortex [8] or a larger gray matter volume in Buddhist meditators than in non-meditators [9-12]. To a large extent these differences appear to be based on a reduced age related decline of brain mass which is present in the normal population.


1. Brefczynski-Lewis, J.A. et al. (2007) Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 104, 11483–11488.
2. Cahn, B. R. & Polich, J. (2009). Meditation (Vipassana) and the P3a event-related brain potential. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72, 51–60.
3. Chambers, R. H., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303-322.
4. Moore, A. & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness & Cognition, 18(1), 176-186.
5. Wallace, B. A., & Shapiro, S. (2006). Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and Western Psychology. American Psychologist, 61(7), 690-701.
6. Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. K., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570.
7. Lutz, A., Brefczynski-Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: effects of meditative expertise. PLoS ONE, 3(3), e1897.
8. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893-1897.
9. Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K., & Vaitl, D. (2008). Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3(1), 55-61
10. Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N. & Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage, 45(3), 672-678.
11. Pagnoni, G., & Cekic, M. (2007). Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation. Neurobiology of Aging, 28(10), 1623-1627.
12. Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., van Beek, M., Skewes, J., Bjarkam, C. R., Stubberup, M., Bertelsen, J. & Roepstorff, A. (2009). Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem. Neuroreport, 20(2), 170-174.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Buddhist meditation and well being: scientific research”

  1. MaryAnne says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. More!!

Leave a Reply