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Last Updated: 16.06.23

How Meditation Works & Science-​​Based Effective Meditations

Huberman explores meditation’s biological mechanisms and optimal practices. Topics include breathwork, perception adjustment, trait changes, neuroplasticity, mood improvement, focus enhancement, relaxation, sleep, and happiness. Additional concepts: “third-​​eye center,” mindfulness, ultra-​​brief meditations, and open-​​eyed perception-​​based meditation. Suitable for novices and experienced meditators interested in conscious awareness and self-regulation.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Specific types of meditation activate certain brain areas

  • Changes in brain state during and after meditation
  • Can impact sleep, mood, focus, and cognitive/​​physical performance

Meditation can reduce the need for sleep while enhancing cognitive and physical abilities

  • As one gets better at meditation, less time is needed to achieve benefits

Key Brain Areas in Meditation

  • Prefrontal Cortex (specifically, left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex): located behind the forehead, involved in interpreting emotions and bodily sensations, and making decisions based on those interpretations

Key Brain Areas in Meditation

  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC): interprets various bodily signals, such as breathing rate and heart rate, and determines if they are appropriate for the current context

Stopping movement, sitting or lying down, and closing eyes can shift brain and neural circuit function

People should consider their natural tendency towards interoception or exteroception when choosing a meditation practice

  • Closing eyes increases interoception, opening eyes increases exteroception

People with social anxiety may be more focused on internal sensations (e.g., heart rate, blushing) during social interactions

  • Context-​​dependent: awareness may shift based on the situation (e.g., being on a date vs. being with a close friend)

Study on wandering mind

  • People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not
  • What people were thinking was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing
  • Conclusion: A wandering mind is an unhappy mind, and the ability to think about what is not happening comes at an emotional cost

The mismatch between doing an activity and having one’s mind elsewhere leads to unhappiness, even if the thoughts are positive

The “third eye” is associated with the pineal gland, a structure in the brain that produces melatonin, which helps regulate sleep

  • Corresponds to the prefrontal cortex in the brain

Prefrontal cortex is involved in directing attention

  • Focusing on the prefrontal cortex (third eye) during meditation can bring attention to thoughts, emotions, and memories
  • Damage to this area can lead to inappropriate behavior and impaired judgment

13-​​minute daily meditation has been shown to improve mood, sleep, and cognitive abilities

  • Shorter meditations (e.g., 5 minutes) can also provide benefits

Ideal mental health state

  • Balance between interoception and dissociation
  • Able to make rational decisions while still feeling emotions
  • Meditation helps move along the interoceptive-​​dissociative continuum

Regular meditation can reduce stress and cortisol levels, potentially reducing overall sleep need

  • This does not mean that if you can’t sleep, you can just meditate and be fine

Yoga Nidra and Non-​​Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) practices can help improve sleep and reduce cortisol levels

  • Reduces stress hormone cortisol
  • Replenishes neurotransmitters
  • Can reduce total amount of sleep needed
  • 30-​​minute practice can replenish dopamine levels


  • Distinct from breathwork, Yoga Nidra, NSDR, and meditation
  • Designed to address specific problems, such as quitting smoking, reducing insomnia, or managing pain
  • Clinical hypnosis has research-​​backed effectiveness


Science-​​based tools and supplements that push the needle.

Choosing a Meditation Practice


STB (Space-​​Time Bridging) Meditation



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • How Meditation Works & Science-​​Based Effective Meditations

    Huberman Lab #96

    Huberman explores meditation’s biology, optimal practices, breathwork, perception, trait changes, neuroplasticity, mood, focus, relaxation, sleep, and happiness. Suitable for all interested in conscious awareness and self-regulation.

Full Notes

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