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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 731579, 13 pages
Review Article

The Influence of Buddhist Meditation Traditions on the Autonomic System and Attention

1Psychology Department, National University of Singapore, Block AS4, No. 02 07, 9 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
2Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, MGH and Harvard Medical School, 25 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Received 28 November 2014; Revised 1 February 2015; Accepted 9 February 2015

Academic Editor: Elisa H. Kozasa

Copyright © 2015 Ido Amihai and Maria Kozhevnikov. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cognitive and neuroscience research from the past several years has shed new light on the influences that meditative traditions have on the meditation practice. Here we review new evidence that shows that types of meditation that developed out of certain traditions such as Vajrayana and Hindu Tantric lead to heightened sympathetic activation and phasic alertness, while types of meditation from other traditions such as Theravada and Mahayana elicit heightened parasympathetic activity and tonic alertness. Such findings validate Buddhist scriptural descriptions of heightened arousal during Vajrayana practices and a calm and alert state of mind during Theravada and Mahayana types of meditation and demonstrate the importance of the cultural and philosophical context out of which the meditation practices develop.