Mechanism of white matter changes induced by meditation

Department of Psychology, Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 06/2012; 109(26):10570-4. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1207817109
Source: PubMed


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.

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    • "Neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neural mechanisms related to changes in self-processing after mindfulness meditation. In particular, the majority of the fMRI studies addressing such changes showed that mindfulness meditation can alter areas belonging to the default mode network involved in self-related processing, such as cortical midline structures of the brain e.g., (Brewer et al., 2011;Hasenkamp & Barsalou, 2012;Ives-Deliperi, Solms, & Meintjes, 2011;Pagnoni, Cekic, & Guo, 2008;Tang et al., 2010;Tang, Rothbart, & Posner, 2012;Tang, Lu, Fan, Yang, & Posner, 2012 "
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    ABSTRACT: Mindfulness meditation exercises the ability to shift to an “observer perspective”. That means learning to observe internally and externally arising stimulations in a detached perspective. Both before and after attending a 8-weeks mindfulness training (MT) participants underwent an fMRI experiment (serving as their own internal control) and solved a own-body mental transformation task, which is used to investigate embodiment and perspective taking (and an non-bodily mental transformation task as control).
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    • "Although reporting promising results, these studies suffer from several shortcomings. They have either only carried out a whole brain analysis (Tang et al., 2010, 2012a; Kang et al., 2013), only investigated structural changes of main tracts of the WM (Luders et al., 2011, 2012b) or their focus was not primarily on DTI (Fayed et al., 2013; for an overview see Fox et al., 2014). However, none of these studies have examined whether the WM directly connected to specific brain areas which are related to mindfulness show differences in fiber structure. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although research on the effects of mindfulness meditation (MM) is increasing, still very little has been done to address its influence on the white matter (WM) of the brain. We hypothesized that the practice of MM might affect the WM microstructure adjacent to five brain regions of interest associated with mindfulness. Diffusion tensor imaging was employed on samples of meditators and non-meditators (n = 64) in order to investigate the effects of MM on group difference and aging. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics was used to estimate the fractional anisotrophy of the WM connected to the thalamus, insula, amygdala, hippocampus, and anterior cingulate cortex. The subsequent generalized linear model analysis revealed group differences and a group-by-age interaction in all five selected regions. These data provide preliminary indications that the practice of MM might result in WM connectivity change and might provide evidence on its ability to help diminish age-related WM degeneration in key regions which participate in processes of mindfulness.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
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    • "It is an intrinsic property of the nervous system retained throughout a lifespan [1]. Previous studies suggested that both short-term [2] [3] and long-term training [4] [5] [6] can modulate brain structural changes involved with both the gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM). The candidate mechanisms for these changes are multifaceted and likely include gliogenesis, synaptogenesis, and vascularization in GM, as well as myelination and axonal sprouting in WM [7]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Accumulating evidence has indicated that amputation induces functional reorganization in the sensory and motor cortices. However, the extent of structural changes after lower limb amputation in patients without phantom pain remains uncertain. We studied 17 adult patients with right lower limb amputation and 18 healthy control subjects using T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging. Cortical thickness and fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter (WM) were investigated. In amputees, a thinning trend was seen in the left premotor cortex (PMC). Smaller clusters were also noted in the visual-to-motor regions. In addition, the amputees also exhibited a decreased FA in the right superior corona radiata and WM regions underlying the right temporal lobe and left PMC. Fiber tractography from these WM regions showed microstructural changes in the commissural fibers connecting the bilateral premotor cortices, compatible with the hypothesis that amputation can lead to a change in interhemispheric interactions. Finally, the lower limb amputees also displayed significant FA reduction in the right inferior frontooccipital fasciculus, which is negatively correlated with the time since amputation. In conclusion, our findings indicate that the amputation of lower limb could induce changes in the cortical representation of the missing limb and the underlying WM connections.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015
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