Meditation is aimed at altering mental states and traits. To achieve this, practitioners engage in different attentional and emotional regulatory practices. Based on the assumption that different mental states are accompanied by different neurophysiological states, meditation practices are believed to induce both short-term and long-term neurophysiological changes. In addition, by frequently engaging in mental training it is believed that meditation practitioners can provide useful information about mental states and conscious subjective experiences. As a result, meditation has been the subject of neuroscientific studies investigating the possible changes in attention, emotion, and consciousness. The present thesis provides an overview on the recent literature on these topics and a structured analysis of the research findings. This overview shows that different forms of meditation yield different effects related to differences in attention distribution, emotion regulation, and cultivated awareness. Furthermore, intensity of the meditation state and the level of experience have consistently been shown to correlate with changes in brain activity. Lastly, structural changes have repeatedly been observed as a consequence of long-term meditation practice. These findings show that the alterations of mental states in meditation practices are accompanied by neurophysiological changes. The overview also demonstrates that the ways through which meditation exert these effects are now beginning to be understood and that results are becoming more cohesive and directed.
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