Distinct Neural Activity Associated with Focused-Attention Meditation and Loving-Kindness Meditation

CNRS - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 08/2012; 7(8):e40054. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040054
Source: PubMed


This study examined the dissociable neural effects of ānāpānasati (focused-attention meditation, FAM) and mettā (loving-kindness meditation, LKM) on BOLD signals during cognitive (continuous performance test, CPT) and affective (emotion-processing task, EPT, in which participants viewed affective pictures) processing. Twenty-two male Chinese expert meditators (11 FAM experts, 11 LKM experts) and 22 male Chinese novice meditators (11 FAM novices, 11 LKM novices) had their brain activity monitored by a 3T MRI scanner while performing the cognitive and affective tasks in both meditation and baseline states. We examined the interaction between state (meditation vs. baseline) and expertise (expert vs. novice) separately during LKM and FAM, using a conjunction approach to reveal common regions sensitive to the expert meditative state. Additionally, exclusive masking techniques revealed distinct interactions between state and group during LKM and FAM. Specifically, we demonstrated that the practice of FAM was associated with expertise-related behavioral improvements and neural activation differences in attention task performance. However, the effect of state LKM meditation did not carry over to attention task performance. On the other hand, both FAM and LKM practice appeared to affect the neural responses to affective pictures. For viewing sad faces, the regions activated for FAM practitioners were consistent with attention-related processing; whereas responses of LKM experts to sad pictures were more in line with differentiating emotional contagion from compassion/emotional regulation processes. Our findings provide the first report of distinct neural activity associated with forms of meditation during sustained attention and emotion processing.


Available from: Wai Kai Hou, Aug 07, 2014
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    • "Of the 54 papers that underwent a full-text review, the five most common reasons for exclusion were that the study: (i) featured a single-dose adapted LKM or CM experimental test rather than training as part of a program of psychotherapy (e.g., Barnhofer et al. 2010; Crane et al. 2010; Engström and Söderfeldt 2010; Feldman et al. 2010; Hutcherson et al. 2008; Lee et al. 2012; Logie and Frewen 2014), (ii) utilized an intervention integrating loving-kindness and/or compassion techniques that was not based on meditation (e.g., Gilbert and Procter 2006; Leiberg et al. 2011; Mayhew and Gilbert 2008; Oman et al. 2010), (iii) was not designed to explicitly assess changes in the symptom severity of DSM-IV-TR Axis I disorders in clinical samples and/or known concomitants thereof in subclinical/healthy samples (e.g., Condon et al. 2013; Hunsinger et al. 2013; Mascaro et al. 2013a, b; May et al. 2011; Weng et al. 2013), (iv) was primarily based on selfcompassion techniques (e.g., Albertson et al. 2014; Neff and Germer 2013; Shapira, and Mongraina 2010), or (v) was not published in a peer-reviewed journal (e.g., Humphrey 1999; Kleinman 2011; Law 2012; Templeton 2007; Weibel 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although clinical interest has predominantly focused on mindfulness meditation, interest into the clinical utility of Buddhist-derived loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and compassion meditation (CM) is also growing. This paper follows the PRISMA (preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analysis) guidelines and provides an evaluative systematic review of LKM and CM intervention studies. Five electronic academic databases were systematically searched to identify all intervention studies assessing changes in the symptom severity of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (text revision fourth edition; DSM-IV-TR) Axis I disorders in clinical samples and/or known concomitants thereof in sub-clinical/healthy samples. The comprehensive database search yielded 342 papers and 20 studies (comprising a total of 1312 participants) were eligible for inclusion. The Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies was then used to assess study quality. Participants demonstrated significant improvements across five psychopathology-relevant outcome domains: (i) positive and negative affect, (ii) psychological distress, (iii) positive thinking, (iv) interpersonal relations, and (v) empathic accuracy. It is concluded that LKM and CM interventions may have utility for treating a variety of psychopathologies. However, to overcome obstacles to clinical integration, a lessons-learned approach is recommended whereby issues encountered during the (ongoing) operationalization of mindfulness interventions are duly considered. In particular, there is a need to establish accurate working definitions for LKM and CM.
    Mindfulness 12/2014; DOI:10.1007/s12671-014-0368-1. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    • "Considerable evidence has documented experience-dependent neuroplastic changes in the brain structure [15, 22, 53], which raises the possibility of designing a specific kind of training directed at a particular function. Meditation, a mental exercise inducing a specific experience in the brain, is the focus of this review. "
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    ABSTRACT: Affective dysregulation is at the root of many psychopathologies, including stress induced disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression. The root of these disorders appears to be an attenuated, top-down cognitive control from the prefrontal cortices over the maladaptive subcortical emotional processing. A form of mental training, long-term meditation practice can trigger meditation-specific neuroplastic changes in the brain regions underlying cognitive control and affective regulation, suggesting that meditation can act as a kind of mental exercise to foster affective regulation and possibly a cost-effective intervention in mood disorders. Increasing research has suggested that the cultivation of awareness and acceptance along with a nonjudgmental attitude via meditation promotes adaptive affective regulation. This review examined the concepts of affective regulation and meditation and discussed behavioral and neural evidence of the potential clinical application of meditation. Lately, there has been a growing trend toward incorporating the "mindfulness" component into existing psychotherapeutic treatment. Promising results have been observed thus far. Future studies may consider exploring the possibility of integrating the element of "compassion" into current psychotherapeutic approaches.
    Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 08/2014; 2014:402718. DOI:10.1155/2014/402718 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    • "With regard to group differences in intrinsic connectivity in the bilateral IFG and insula, the IFG has been implicated in emotion processing, from emotional feeling to emotion simulation and empathy (Jabbi and Keysers 2008; Shamay-Tsoory et al. 2009). Prior studies of the effects of loving kindness or compassion meditation on emotion processing have reported changes in the IFG and anterior insula (Lutz et al. 2008; Lee et al. 2012; Weng et al. 2013). For example, a recent study found that compassion meditation training led to improved empathic accuracy on the 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test' in which subjects are asked to infer others' mental states from viewing their eyes, and this was associated with greater BOLD signal in the bilateral IFG (Mascaro et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Loving kindness is a form of meditation involving directed well-wishing, typically supported by the silent repetition of phrases such as “may all beings be happy,” to foster a feeling of selfless love. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the neural substrate of loving kindness meditation in experienced meditators and novices. We first assessed group differences in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal during loving kindness meditation. We next used a relatively novel approach, the intrinsic connectivity distribution of functional connectivity, to identify regions that differ in intrinsic connectivity between groups, and then used a data-driven approach to seed-based connectivity analysis to identify which connections differ between groups. Our findings suggest group differences in brain regions involved in self-related processing and mind wandering, emotional processing, inner speech, and memory. Meditators showed overall reduced BOLD signal and intrinsic connectivity during loving kindness as compared to novices, more specifically in the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus (PCC/PCu), a finding that is consistent with our prior work and other recent neuroimaging studies of meditation. Furthermore, meditators showed greater functional connectivity during loving kindness between the PCC/PCu and the left inferior frontal gyrus, whereas novices showed greater functional connectivity during loving kindness between the PCC/PCu and other cortical midline regions of the default mode network, the bilateral posterior insula lobe, and the bilateral parahippocampus/hippocampus. These novel findings suggest that loving kindness meditation involves a present-centered, selfless focus for meditators as compared to novices.
    Brain and Behavior 05/2014; 4(3). DOI:10.1002/brb3.219 · 2.24 Impact Factor
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