There is growing interest in the effects of meditation practices on health. Meditation targets the practitioner's brain/mind, with subsequent positive effects on bodily functions. However, there is great need for rigorous studies that establish if meditation does indeed produce long-lasting changes in the brain, what these changes may be, and their functional significance for healthy subjects in daily life as well as in clinical populations. Project 1 of the Center Proposal aims at demonstrating effects of meditation training on behavior as well as on neurobiological markers related to emotion and emotion regulation. Project 2 will evaluate the effects of meditation training on inflammatory markers and its potential benefits in a clinical population with asthma, a typical inflammatory disease. This project (Project 3) aims at establishing the functional significance of our previous observation of meditation-induced changes in electroencephalographic (EEG) activity during sleep for brain activity and cognitive functioning during wakefulness. In the previous NCCAM project we found that long term meditators had an increase in EEG gamma activity during non rapid eye movement sleep as compared to meditation naive individuals. This increase was specific for the gamma range, and correlated with the length of meditation practice. We will evaluate if this increased gamma activity during sleep in long term meditators is associated with changes in sleep mentation (a change in the occurrence and cognitive aspects of dream reports). We will also evaluate if meditation-induced changes in brain activity during sleep are associated with changes in brain activity and cognitive function during wakefulness. We will then assess whether the differences in brain activity patterns and cognitive function observed in long term meditators can be induced in meditation naive individuals after intense 8 week meditation training, enhanced by post-training meditation boosters. Finally, we will assess the general significance of our findings for health, by correlating meditation-induced brain activity changes with inflammatory markers in a population of asthmatic patients.

Public Health Relevance

If the predictions delineated in the present Project are confirmed, such evidence will provide strong support to the notion that meditation training can affect basic neurobiological functions and cognitive performance in a substantial and lasting manner. Such evidence will provide a novel, rational basis for designing meditation-based interventions to improve both health and wellness.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAT1-SM (28))
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Wisconsin Madison
United States
Zip Code
Kaliman, Perla; Alvarez-López, María Jesús; Cosín-Tomás, Marta et al. (2014) Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology 40:96-107
Schuyler, Brianna S; Kral, Tammi R A; Jacquart, Jolene et al. (2014) Temporal dynamics of emotional responding: amygdala recovery predicts emotional traits. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 9:176-81
Lutz, Antoine; McFarlin, Daniel R; Perlman, David M et al. (2013) Altered anterior insula activation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators. Neuroimage 64:538-46
Adluru, Nagesh; Hanlon, Bret M; Lutz, Antoine et al. (2013) Penalized likelihood phenotyping: unifying voxelwise analyses and multi-voxel pattern analyses in neuroimaging: penalized likelihood phenotyping. Neuroinformatics 11:227-47
Adluru, Nagesh; Zhang, Hui; Tromp, Do P M et al. (2013) Effects of DTI spatial normalization on white matter tract reconstructions. Proc SPIE Int Soc Opt Eng 8669:
Ferrarelli, Fabio; Smith, Richard; Dentico, Daniela et al. (2013) Experienced mindfulness meditators exhibit higher parietal-occipital EEG gamma activity during NREM sleep. PLoS One 8:e73417
Weng, Helen Y; Fox, Andrew S; Shackman, Alexander J et al. (2013) Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychol Sci 24:1171-80
Levinson, Daniel B; Smallwood, Jonathan; Davidson, Richard J (2012) The persistence of thought: evidence for a role of working memory in the maintenance of task-unrelated thinking. Psychol Sci 23:375-80
Davidson, Richard J; McEwen, Bruce S (2012) Social influences on neuroplasticity: stress and interventions to promote well-being. Nat Neurosci 15:689-95
Perlman, David M; Salomons, Tim V; Davidson, Richard J et al. (2010) Differential effects on pain intensity and unpleasantness of two meditation practices. Emotion 10:65-71

Showing the most recent 10 out of 14 publications