Recent research has shown that Buddhist meditation can not only affect long-term behavior, but can actually alter the structure of the brain (1, 2, 3, 4).
So how does something as non-physical as the attention developed during meditation affect physical structures of the brain? According to the mechanistic materialist worldview, this sort of 'downward-causation' (mind over matter) shouldn't happen. To a materialist, mental activities result from physical processes, not vice versa.
One possible mechanism for downward causation has been suggested by physicist Henry Stapp, who proposed that the Quantum Zeno Effect allows the observer to hold patterns of energy states in a stable condition where they would normally, if left unobserved, decay randomly .
The Quantum Zeno effect (also known as the Turing paradox) is a situation in which an unstable quantum system, if observed continuously, will never decay. One can "freeze" the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its known initial state.
|A watched quantum state never changes|
The prolonged processes of attention in Buddhist meditation are good candidates for the kind of mental activities that could affect the physical state of microscopic brain structures.
Buddhism, Quantum Physics and Mind