Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation

Yi Yuan Tang, Yinghua Ma, Yaxin Fan, Hongbo Feng, Junhong Wang, Shigang Feng, Qilin Lu, Bing Hu, Yao Lin, Jian Li, Ye Zhang, Yan Wang, Li Zhou, Ming Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

364 Scopus citations

Abstract

Five days of integrative body-mind training (IBMT) improves attention and self-regulation in comparison with the same amount of relaxation training. This paper explores the underlying mechanisms of this finding. We measured the physiological and brain changes at rest before, during, and after 5 days of IBMT and relaxation training. During and after training, the IBMT group showed significantly better physiological reactions in heart rate, respiratory amplitude and rate, and skin conductance response (SCR) than the relaxation control. Differences in heart rate variability (HRV) and EEG power suggested greater involvement of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in the IBMT group during and after training. Imaging data demonstrated stronger subgenual and adjacent ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity in the IBMT group. Frontal midline ACC theta was correlated with high-frequency HRV, suggesting control by the ACC over parasympathetic activity. These results indicate that after 5 days of training, the IBMT group shows better regulation of the ANS by a ventral midfrontal brain system than does the relaxation group. This changed state probably reflects training in the coordination of body and mind given in the IBMT but not in the control group. These results could be useful in the design of further specific interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8865-8870
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume106
Issue number22
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2 2009

Keywords

  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Body-mind interaction
  • IBMT

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