Using structural neuroimaging studies, meditation has been shown to consistently increase the size or density of eight different brain regions. These regions include the frontopolar cortex (associated with meta-awareness), the sensory cortices and insula (related to body-specific awareness), the hippocampus (involved in memory processes), and other areas associated with emotion and self-regulation. Meditation is also shown to alter neuroplasticity within brain regions involved in attention, control, and executive processing. These findings speak to the extensive effects of meditation on the human brain.
In addition to altering physical properties of the brain itself, meditation can improve emotion regulation. Reports show that meditative practices have positive effects on emotional processing and mood. Scientists suspect the positive benefit occurs as a result of strengthened prefrontal cognitive control mechanisms that decrease activity in brain regions associated with negative emotional response, such as the amygdala.
Mindfulness meditation training can also be used as a stress reduction method and has even been shown to prevent relapse in those with depression.