Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity

Judson A. Brewer, Patrick D. Worhunsky, Jeremy R. Gray, Yi Yuan Tang, Jochen Weber, Hedy Kober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

540 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many philosophical and contemplative traditions teach that "living in the moment" increases happiness. However, the default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with self-referential processing. We investigated brain activity in experienced meditators and matched meditation-naive controls as they performed several different meditations (Concentration, Loving-Kindness, Choiceless Awareness). We found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control), both at baseline and during meditation. Our findings demonstrate differences in the default-mode network that are consistent with decreased mind-wandering. As such, these provide a unique understanding of possible neural mechanisms of meditation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20254-20259
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume108
Issue number50
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 13 2011

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Mindfulness
  • Task-positive network

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