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Neuroscience and Society Series: The Meditating Brain

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Online registration for this event has closed. Those who are still interested in attending may register on-site at the event.

From contemplation to prayer, forms of meditation exist in every society. Now, using up-to-date technologies, these ancient practices are being increasingly studied by neuroscientists. Although learning to meditate—to turn off all distractions—is no easy task, the advertised benefits claim it to be worthwhile. Such alleged benefits include the “calming” of neurotransmitters, beating addiction, and even building a bigger brain.

Published studies argue that meditation can produce structural alterations in the brain and may even slow the progress of certain age-related atrophy. Similarly, some yoga advocates claim that the practice, which is explored as a treatment for major depressive disorders, expands mental faculties. Further, prayer, according to the Huffington Post, can help dissuade impulsive actions.

Neuroimaging technologies are revealing changes in blood flow to areas of the brain, indicating more activity. This program will explore the neurological bases of these claims, if any, by explaining how the mind and body talk with one another during the acts of meditation, yoga, and prayer.

Meditation and the Brain
Sara Lazar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Psychology
Harvard Medical School

The Brain on Religion
Andrew B. Newberg, M.D. 
Director of Research, Marcus Institute of Integrative Health
Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital

The Neuroscience of Yoga
Chris Streeter, M.D.
Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Neurology
Boston University School of Medicine