Meditation may increase empathy

Mettā Meditation, Photographer Pekka Lakko

Research at the University of Wisconsin has used advanced brain images (fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging) to show that compassion meditation—a specific form of Buddhist meditation—may increase the human capacity for empathy.

In the study, researchers compared brain activity in meditation experts with that of subjects just learning the technique (16 in each group). They measured brain activity, during meditation and at rest, in response to sounds—a woman in distress, a baby laughing, and a busy restaurant—designed to evoke a negative, positive, or neutral emotional response.

The researchers found that both the novice and the expert meditators showed an increased empathy reaction when in a meditative state.

References: Study, nccam.nih.gov.

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