Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

Yi Yuan Tang, Qilin Lu, Ming Fan, Yihong Yang, Michael I. Posner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using diffusion tensor imaging, several recent studies have shown that training results in changes in white matter efficiency as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA). In our work, we found that a form of mindfulness meditation, integrative body-mind training (IBMT), improved FA in areas surrounding the anterior cingulate cortex after 4-wk training more than controls given relaxation training. Reductions in radial diffusivity (RD) have been interpreted as improved myelin but reductions in axial diffusivity (AD) involve other mechanisms, such as axonal density. We now report that after 4-wk training with IBMT, both RD and AD decrease accompanied by increased FA, indicating improved efficiency of white matter involves increased myelin as well as other axonal changes. However, 2-wk IBMT reduced AD, but not RD or FA, and improved moods. Our results demonstrate the time-course of white matter neuroplasticity in short-term meditation. This dynamic pattern of white matter change involving the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain network related to self-regulation, could provide a means for intervention to improve or prevent mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10570-10574
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume109
Issue number26
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 26 2012

Keywords

  • Anterior corona radiata
  • Attention network test
  • Profile of mood states

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