These are the major research findings since 1982 from the University Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness:
Amishi Jha has done research with soldiers before they were deployed and found they made fewer errors in combat due to less mind wandering. This was only true for the soldiers who were in the “high meditator” group. Since then she has done work with the wives of soldiers who have had one rotation in combat and are up for redeployment and has found that this group also benefit from learning mindfulness techniques:
This is a TED talk by Sarah Lazar who is a neuroscientist and a meditator:
This is link to her meditation research website:
She has shown that the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that senses danger, shrinks in people who meditate. She has shown that in long term meditators brain regions associated with attention, interception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.
Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity . In other words the brain can change at any age!
Richard Davidson has been researching meditation and its affect on the mind since the 1970’s. He has also published several books for lay people about it, and he has recording available at Sounds True:
Judson Brewer answers the question of why Facebook is like crack cocaine:
He also created Craving to Quit for smoking cessation:
Bruce McEwen is at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University and he answers fascinating questions like, "How is the brain in hibernation like the brain in people with PTSD?" The answer lies in the the hippocampus, which is the area for storing memories in the brain. It shrinks under chronic stress and in hibernating mammals and expands in people who meditate and in people who learn intensely and those who exercise. Benzodiazepines also affect the functioning of the hippocampus by interfering with memory:
Here is a link to a question and answer session by TIME with Dr. McEwen: