Interoceptive awareness: MBSR training alters information processing of salience network

Author: Shiao-Fei Guu1, Yi-Ping Chao2,3, Feng-Ying Huang4, Yu-Ting Cheng1,5, Hei-Yin Hydra Ng6,7, Chia-Fen Hsu8,9, Chun-Hsiang Chuang7, Chih-Mao Huang10,11, Changwei W Wu1,12
1 Graduate Institute of Mind, Brain and Consciousness, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan.
2 Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan.
3 Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taoyuan, Taiwan.
4 Department of Education, National Taipei University of Education, Taipei, Taiwan.
5 Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, United States.
6 Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, College of Education, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
7 Research Center for Education and Mind Sciences, College of Education, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
8 Graduate Institute of Behavioral Sciences, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan.
9 Department of Child Psychiatry, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Linkou, Taoyuan, Taiwan.
10 Department of Biological Science and Technology, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
11 Center for Intelligent Drug Systems and Smart Bio-Devices (IDS2B), National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
12 Brain and Consciousness Research Center, Shuang Ho Hospital-Taipei Medical University, New Taipei, Taiwan.
Conference/Journal: Front Behav Neurosci
Date published: 2023 Mar 21
Other: Volume ID: 17 , Pages: 1008086 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2023.1008086. , Word Count: 324

Mindfulness refers to a mental state of awareness of internal experience without judgment. Studies have suggested that each mindfulness practice may involve a unique mental state, but the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms remain unknown. Here we examined how distinct mindfulness practices after mindfulness-based intervention alter brain functionality. Specifically, we investigated the functional alterations of the salience network (SN) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) among the two interoceptive mindfulness practices-breathing and body scan-associated with interoceptive awareness in fixed attention and shifted attention, respectively. Long-distance functional connectivity (FC) and regional homogeneity (ReHo) approaches were applied to measure distant and local neural information processing across various mental states. We hypothesized that mindful breathing and body scan would yield a unique information processing pattern in terms of long-range and local functional connectivity (FC). A total of 18 meditation-naïve participants were enrolled in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program alongside a waitlist control group (n = 14), with both groups undergoing multiple fMRI sessions during breathing, body scan and resting state for comparison. We demonstrated that two mindfulness practices affect both the long-distance FC SN and the local ReHo, only apparent after the MBSR program. Three functional distinctions between the mindfulness practices and the resting state are noted: (1) distant SN connectivity to occipital regions increased during the breathing practice (fixed attention), whereas the SN increased connection with the frontal/central gyri during the body scan (shifting attention); (2) local ReHo increased only in the parietal lobe during the body scan (shifting attention); (3) distant and local connections turned into a positive correlation only during the mindfulness practices after the MBSR training, indicating a global enhancement of the SN information processing during mindfulness practices. Though with limited sample size, the functional specificity of mindfulness practices offers a potential research direction on neuroimaging of mindfulness, awaiting further studies for verification.

Keywords: functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); interoceptive awareness; mindfulness; mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR); regional homogeneity; salience network.

PMID: 37025109 PMCID: PMC10070746 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2023.1008086