The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation

Journal name:
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
Year published:
Published online


Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation — practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health — exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance. Recent neuroimaging studies have begun to uncover the brain areas and networks that mediate these positive effects. However, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear, and it is apparent that more methodologically rigorous studies are required if we are to gain a full understanding of the neuronal and molecular bases of the changes in the brain that accompany mindfulness meditation.


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Author information

  1. These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Yi-Yuan Tang &
    • Britta K. Hölzel


  1. Department of Psychological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409, USA.

    • Yi-Yuan Tang
  2. Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.

    • Yi-Yuan Tang &
    • Michael I. Posner
  3. Department of Neuroradiology, Technical University of Munich, 81675 Munich, Germany.

    • Britta K. Hölzel
  4. Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.

    • Britta K. Hölzel

Competing interests statement

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Author details

  • Yi-Yuan Tang

    Yi-Yuan Tang is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Professor of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, USA. His basic research focuses on how experiences affect brain processing and reshape the brain networks that support attention, emotional regulation and cognitive performance. His translational research covers preventive intervention for behavioural problems and mental disorders. He uses multi-modal neuroimaging, physiological, psychosocial and genetic methods in healthy and patient populations of different ages. He developed a mindfulness-based preventive intervention — integrative body–mind training (IBMT) — and has studied its effects in randomized clinical trials since the 1990s. Yi-Yuan Tang's homepage.

  • Britta K. Hölzel

    Britta K. Hölzel obtained a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Giessen, Germany. She now conducts MRI research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, and the Technical University of Munich, Germany, to investigate the neural mechanisms of mindfulness practice. Her research focuses on the effects of mindfulness practice on attention and emotion regulation, as well as on structural changes in the brain. Britta K. Hölzel's homepage.

  • Michael I. Posner

    Michael I. Posner has, for more than 50 years, studied how mental operations, particularly those related to attention, are carried out by neural networks. He has used cognitive, imaging and genetic methods. He continues these studies as Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon, Eugene, USA, and Adjunct Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, USA. His current work examines the mechanisms of changes in white matter resulting from various forms of training. Michael I. Posner's homepage.

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