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Comparative Study
. 2013 Jan;8(1):27-33.
doi: 10.1093/scan/nss056. Epub 2012 May 7.

The Effect of Meditation on Brain Structure: Cortical Thickness Mapping and Diffusion Tensor Imaging

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Free PMC article
Comparative Study

The Effect of Meditation on Brain Structure: Cortical Thickness Mapping and Diffusion Tensor Imaging

Do-Hyung Kang et al. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

A convergent line of neuroscientific evidence suggests that meditation alters the functional and structural plasticity of distributed neural processes underlying attention and emotion. The purpose of this study was to examine the brain structural differences between a well-matched sample of long-term meditators and controls. We employed whole-brain cortical thickness analysis based on magnetic resonance imaging, and diffusion tensor imaging to quantify white matter integrity in the brains of 46 experienced meditators compared with 46 matched meditation-naïve volunteers. Meditators, compared with controls, showed significantly greater cortical thickness in the anterior regions of the brain, located in frontal and temporal areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, superior frontal cortex, temporal pole and the middle and interior temporal cortices. Significantly thinner cortical thickness was found in the posterior regions of the brain, located in the parietal and occipital areas, including the postcentral cortex, inferior parietal cortex, middle occipital cortex and posterior cingulate cortex. Moreover, in the region adjacent to the medial prefrontal cortex, both higher fractional anisotropy values and greater cortical thickness were observed. Our findings suggest that long-term meditators have structural differences in both gray and white matter.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Regional maps showing the statistical differences (A) in cortical thickness and (B) in FA between meditation practitioners and control subjects.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
The mean differences between meditation practitioners and control subjects in each ROI. (A) Mean cortical differences between two groups in ROIs including the MFC (L1), OFC (L2), ITC (L3), SFC (L4), AG (L5), PCC (L6), PFC (L7), vmPFC/OFC (L8), SFC (R1), vmPFC/OFC (R2), IPC/PostC (R3), OC (R4), SM (R5), ITC (R6), and SFC (R7) (B) mean cortical thickness and mean FA values in each ROI. Red-colored boxes indicate control subjects and green-colored boxes indicate meditation practitioners. The x-axis shows brain regions and the y-axis indicates cortical thickness (millimeters) or FA values. The region showing statistical significant differences are marked with orange asterisk. L, left hemisphere; R, right hemisphere; ITC, inferior temporal cortex; AG, angular gyrus; vm, ventromedial; SFC, superior frontal cortex; IPC, inferior parietal cortex; PostC, postcentral cortex; OC, occipital cortex; SM, supramarginal cortex.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Correlation between left superior frontal cortex thickness and duration of meditation practice.

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