Author: Giuseppe Pagnoni1*, Milos Cekic2, Ying Guo3
1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America, 2 Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America, 3 Department of Biostatistics, The Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, Untied States of America
Conference/Journal: PLoS ONE
Date published: 2008 Sep 3
Other: Volume ID: 3 , Issue ID: 9 , Pages: e3083. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003083 , Word Count: 182
Recent neuroimaging studies have identified a set of brain regions that are metabolically active during wakeful rest and consistently deactivate in a variety the performance of demanding tasks. This “default network” has been functionally linked to the stream of thoughts occurring automatically in the absence of goal-directed activity and which constitutes an aspect of mental behavior specifically addressed by many meditative practices. Zen meditation, in particular, is traditionally associated with a mental state of full awareness but reduced conceptual content, to be attained via a disciplined regulation of attention and bodily posture. Using fMRI and a simplified meditative condition interspersed with a lexical decision task, we investigated the neural correlates of conceptual processing during meditation in regular Zen practitioners and matched control subjects. While behavioral performance did not differ between groups, Zen practitioners displayed a reduced duration of the neural response linked to conceptual processing in regions of the default network, suggesting that meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation.