The cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness

It’s always fascinating to see ideas that have been around for millennia put under the scrutiny of controlled observations and experiments. Mindfulness and meditation techniques have come out partially vindicated from decades of data gathered about their effects. The following two videos (one short, one long) showcase some scientifically credible benefits of mindfulness-based therapy and mindfulness exercises.

(1) Preventing depression relapse:

(2) Wide-ranging benefits to well-being (e.g., reducing stress and blood pressure) in clinical and non-clinical groups of people


  • a j marr

    In its essence, mindfulness changes how we ‘want’, but in spite of the explosion of research on the neuroscience of mindfulness, a neurological definition of wanting has never been incorporated in any of this research literature. A major reason may be the predominant use of brain imaging (fmri) to observe the minds of mindfulness practitioners. Since the fmri only measures brain activity through the proxy of blood flow within the brain, it cannot measure the biochemical correlates to wanting that are independent of neural blood flow. Indeed, because ‘wanting’ processes in the brain involve small arrays of cells within the midbrain, the fmri is as useful in observing wanting as the Mount Palomar telescope is in observing sub-atomic particles. In other words, it doesn’t work.

    Below is a link to the first definition of mindfulness that is derived from the neuroscience of wanting. Derived from the work of the behavioral neuroscientist Kent Berridge who vetted the explanation for accuracy, it provides a very short, simple and new explanation of mindfulness that justified it a most unusual way. I hope you find it of interest.

    • Jose Drost-Lopez

      I think you’re right in that neuroscience still has bridges to build with psychological and philosophical concepts. Thanks for the link.