Meditation Can Change The Brain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Meditation can affect certain brain regions and make people more compassionate, kind, and loving. A study by University of Wisconsin-Madison proved that meditation makes people more sensitive towards other people.

Scientists examined 16 Tibetan monks who had at least 10000 hours of meditation, and 16 volunteers with no meditation experience. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan brain for changes. Brain regions responsible for emotions were significantly changed after so called 'compassion meditation'.

Two weeks before brain scanning the volunteers was trained to compassion meditation techniques by experienced monks. They were taught to concentrate on their loved ones, whish them happiness and health. Later, they were taught to concentrate on other people and generate loving emotions to them.


After successfully being trained, the volunteers and monks were fMRI scanned during compassion meditation and general state. They were exposed to positive and negative human voices (such as sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing, and restaurant noise) during scanning. Scientists used voices instead of images, because meditating people usually have their eyes open, but not focused on what they see.

Scanners reported significant changes in insula - a region of frontal brain, which is mainly responsible for emotions. Insula captures bodily changes made by emotions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and transfers the information to other parts of brain.

Both monks and volunteers reported significant insula activity when exposed to voices. Those with longer meditating experienced showed even more brain activity during compassion meditation than the volunteers. However, all of the participants showed kindness and compassion emotions improved during meditation sessions.

Scientists suggest this finding can be very useful for society - people may become more caring about others, less inclined to violence, people will stay away from depression and anxiety, problem aged children will become more sensible... And all these can happen thanks to compassion meditation.