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: 5.04). 07/2012; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nss076
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Behavioral studies suggest a relationship between autobiographical memory, rumination, and depression. The objective of the current study was to determine whether remitted depressed patients show alterations in connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC; a node in the default mode network) with the parahippocampal gyri (PHG; a region associated with autobiographical memory) while intensively recalling negative memories and whether this is related to daily life symptoms and to the further course of depression.Sad mood was induced with keywords of personal negative life events in participants with remitted depression (n=29) and matched healthy controls (n=29) during fMRI. Additionally, daily life assessments of mood and rumination and a six-months follow-up were conducted.Remitted depressed participants showed greater connectivity than healthy controls of the PCC with the PHG, which was even stronger in patients with more previous episodes. Furthermore, patients with increased PCC-PHG connectivity showed a sadder mood and more rumination in daily life, and a worsening of rumination and depression scores during follow-up.A relationship of negative autobiographical memory processing, rumination, sad mood, and depression on a neural level seems likely. The identified increased connectivity probably indicates a 'scar' of recurrent depression and may represent a prognostic factor for future depression.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 02/2014; · 5.04 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The sound "OM" is believed to bring mental peace and calm. The cortical activation associated with listening to sound "OM" in contrast to similar non-meaningful sound (TOM) and listening to a meaningful Hindi word (AAM) has been investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The behaviour interleaved gradient technique was employed in order to avoid interference of scanner noise. The results reveal that listening to "OM" sound in contrast to the meaningful Hindi word condition activates areas of bilateral cerebellum, left middle frontal gyrus (dorsolateral middle frontal/BA 9), right precuneus (BA 5) and right supramarginal gyrus (SMG). Listening to "OM" sound in contrast to "non-meaningful" sound condition leads to cortical activation in bilateral middle frontal (BA9), right middle temporal (BA37), right angular gyrus (BA 40), right SMG and right superior middle frontal gyrus (BA 8). The conjunction analysis reveals that the common neural regions activated in listening to "OM" sound during both conditions are middle frontal (left dorsolateral middle frontal cortex) and right SMG. The results correspond to the fact that listening to "OM" sound recruits neural systems implicated in emotional empathy.
    Cognition & emotion. 05/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Mindfulness is the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present, which is beneficial for reducing stress-related symptoms and improving mental and physical health. Previous studies have demonstrated that meditation practice can improve individuals' mindfulness through modifying functions and structures of multiple brain regions, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insula, fronto-limbic network, posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and temporal-parietal junction. However, little is known about the neuroanatomical correlates of trait mindfulness. In the current study, we used voxel-based morphometry to investigate the neural correlates of individual differences in trait mindfulness by correlating the gray matter (GM) volume of each voxel across the whole brain with trait mindfulness measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale in a large sample of young adults (N = 247). We found that individuals who were more mindful of the present had greater GM volume in the right hippocampus/amygdala and bilateral ACC and but less GM volume in bilateral PCC and the left orbitofrontal cortex. These results suggest that trait mindfulness is associated with brain regions involved in executive attention, emotion regulation, and self-referential processing, through which mindfulness may exerts its beneficial effects on psychological and physical well-being.
    Neuroscience 05/2014; · 3.12 Impact Factor


Available from