What’s happening in (and to) my brain when I meditate? This question is asked time and time again by individuals undertaking contemplative practices, journalists writing articles about mindfulness, and scientists trying to figure out what is happening on a neurobiological level during these practices. A growing number of studies have been published in an attempt to answer this question across a wide range of contemplative traditions, levels of practitioner experience, and scientific tools employed therein. Yet, in aggregate, what have we learned about this basic question? Is there a way to bring all of these traditions and data together, as a starting point for moving toward an answer? This lecture will highlight basic commonalities in contemplative practices and how these link with reproducible neuroimaging findings in the field. It will also describe emerging tools (e.g. neurophenomenology) that can be used to bridge the gap between subjective experience and brain activity, and how these can be used to confirm previous findings and open avenues for future exploration. Finally, the lecture will suggest how answering the question of “what’s happening in my brain when I meditate” can be used for pragmatic benefit in clinical settings.

Judson Brewer, MD, PhD

Brown University

Jud Brewer MD, PhD (“Dr. Jud”) is a New York Times best-selling author and thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery,” having combined over … MORE

Mind & Life Connections