Disentangling the neural mechanisms involved in Hinduism- and Buddhism-related meditations.

Author: Tomasino B1, Chiesa A2, Fabbro F3.
1Department of Human Science, University of Udine, Italy. Electronic address: barbara.tomasino@uniud.it. 2Department of Biomedical and NeuroMotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy; Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Messina, Italy. 3Department of Human Science, University of Udine, Italy; Perceptual Robotics (PERCRO) Laboratory, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy.
Conference/Journal: Brain Cogn.
Date published: 2014 Jun 26
Other: Volume ID: 90C , Pages: 32-40 , Word Count: 229

The most diffuse forms of meditation derive from Hinduism and Buddhism spiritual traditions. Different cognitive processes are set in place to reach these meditation states. According to an historical-philological hypothesis (Wynne, 2009) the two forms of meditation could be disentangled. While mindfulness is the focus of Buddhist meditation reached by focusing sustained attention on the body, on breathing and on the content of the thoughts, reaching an ineffable state of nothigness accompanied by a loss of sense of self and duality (Samadhi) is the main focus of Hinduism-inspired meditation. It is possible that these different practices activate separate brain networks. We tested this hypothesis by conducting an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. The network related to Buddhism-inspired meditation (16 experiments, 263 subjects, and 96 activation foci) included activations in some frontal lobe structures associated with executive attention, possibly confirming the fundamental role of mindfulness shared by many Buddhist meditations. By contrast, the network related to Hinduism-inspired meditation (8 experiments, 54 activation foci and 66 subjects) triggered a left lateralized network of areas including the postcentral gyrus, the superior parietal lobe, the hippocampus and the right middle cingulate cortex. The dissociation between anterior and posterior networks support the notion that different meditation styles and traditions are characterized by different patterns of neural activation.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Default system; Executive attention; Meditation; Mindfulness; Superior medial gyrus; Yoga

PMID: 24975229