Contemplative neuroscience is the emerging scientific discipline, which studies the possibly reciprocal relationship between the brain and what is called “the mind”.
Neuroscience and neurology tell us of the plasticity of our brain (or neuroplasticity), which is basically its ability to adapt, develop and radically change as a result of the impact of human experience and the interaction with the outside world. Scientists know today that this is true not only at early stages of life, but indeed at all stages.
As it is well know, who we are and what we are, both are products of our brain. This relationship was thought to be one directional, meaning the mind is what the brain dictates, but never the other way around.
New neuroscientific studies show that this process may indeed be reciprocal, as mindful mental training such as meditation seem to have the capacity to alter the very neural structure of the brain.
The implications of this may be far reaching.
Firstly, this may be a valuable supplement (or possibly even alternative) to psycho-pharmacological/psychoactive medication treatment of various mental ailments.
It provides us with the profound understanding that mental discipline can be a highly useful tool for cultivation of a strong and stable emotional and mental well being.
Secondly, further methodical and ultra specific scientific inquiry into the subject will differentiate between various spiritual practices which claim such an ability, and aid in much needed filtering of nonsensical ideas which have become abundant throughout society.
references: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20363650?dopt=Citation http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21471390?dopt=Citation http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate/ Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation