Increased Gray-Matter Volume in the Right Angular and Posterior Parahippocampal Gyri in Loving-Kindness Meditators

Laboratory of Neuropsychology, The University of Hong Kong, Room 610, Knowles Building, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China. .
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 7.37). 07/2012; 8(1). DOI: 10.1093/scan/nss076
Source: PubMed


Previous voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies have revealed that meditation is associated with structural brain changes in regions underlying cognitive processes that are required for attention or mindfulness during meditation. This VBM study examined brain changes related to the practice of an emotion-oriented meditation: loving-kindness meditation (LKM). A 3 T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner captured images of the brain structures of 25 men, 10 of whom had practiced LKM in the Theravada tradition for at least 5 years. Compared with novices, more gray matter volume was detected in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri in LKM experts. The right angular gyrus has not been previously reported to have structural differences associated with meditation, and its specific role in mind and cognitive empathy theory suggests the uniqueness of this finding for LKM practice. These regions are important for affective regulation associated with empathic response, anxiety and mood. At the same time, gray matter volume in the left temporal lobe in the LKM experts appeared to be greater, an observation that has also been reported in previous MRI meditation studies on meditation styles other than LKM. Overall, the findings of our study suggest that experience in LKM may influence brain structures associated with affective regulation.

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    • "Increases in the axonal connectivity have been found in the corpus callosum and in the longitudinal fasciculus (Luders et al., 2011; Tang et al., 2012; Fox et al., 2014). Increases in gray matter volume have been found in both hippocampal and parahippocampal gyri (Hölzel et al., 2008; Leung et al., 2013), with some studies showing a larger right hippocampal gray matter increase (Hölzel et al., 2008; Luders et al., 2009), and others left (Hölzel et al., 2011; Luders et al., 2013). An ongoing issue for morphometric studies using MRI and PET has been disentangling what exactly is contributing to the observed increases in cortical thickness. "

    Frontiers in Psychology 11/2015; 6(186). DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01765 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "In a further quantitative meta-analysis, Spreng and colleagues demonstrated a strong overlap of the autobiographical brain network and the DMN, particularly in the PHG (Spreng et al., 2009). Interestingly, increased gray matter volume in the parahippocampal gyri was found in meditators (Leung et al., 2013), whereas the cortex was thinner in this area in late life depressive patients who did not respond to psychotherapy (Mackin et al., 2012). "
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