Very little is currently known about the cerebral characteristics that underlie the complex processes of meditation as only a limited number of studies have addressed this topic. Research exploring structural connectivity in meditation practitioners is particularly rare. We thus acquired diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data of high angular and spatial resolution and used atlas-based tract mapping methods to investigate white matter fiber characteristics in a well-matched sample of long-term meditators and controls (n=54). A broad field mapping approach estimated the fractional anisotropy (FA) for twenty different fiber tracts (i.e., nine tracts in each hemisphere and two inter-hemispheric tracts) that were subsequently used as dependent measures. Results showed pronounced structural connectivity in meditators compared to controls throughout the entire brain within major projection pathways, commissural pathways, and association pathways. The largest group differences were observed within the corticospinal tract, the temporal component of the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the uncinate fasciculus. While cross-sectional studies represent a good starting point for elucidating possible links between meditation and white matter fiber characteristics, longitudinal studies will be necessary to determine the relative contribution of nature and nurture to enhanced structural connectivity in long-term meditators.
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