Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2012 Nov 1;6:292.
doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292. eCollection 2012.

Effects of Mindful-Attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-Meditative State

Affiliations
Free PMC article

Effects of Mindful-Attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-Meditative State

Gaëlle Desbordes et al. Front Hum Neurosci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

The amygdala has been repeatedly implicated in emotional processing of both positive and negative-valence stimuli. Previous studies suggest that the amygdala response to emotional stimuli is lower when the subject is in a meditative state of mindful-attention, both in beginner meditators after an 8-week meditation intervention and in expert meditators. However, the longitudinal effects of meditation training on amygdala responses have not been reported when participants are in an ordinary, non-meditative state. In this study, we investigated how 8 weeks of training in meditation affects amygdala responses to emotional stimuli in subjects when in a non-meditative state. Healthy adults with no prior meditation experience took part in 8 weeks of either Mindful Attention Training (MAT), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT; a program based on Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation practices), or an active control intervention. Before and after the intervention, participants underwent an fMRI experiment during which they were presented images with positive, negative, and neutral emotional valences from the IAPS database while remaining in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Using a region-of-interest analysis, we found a longitudinal decrease in right amygdala activation in the Mindful Attention group in response to positive images, and in response to images of all valences overall. In the CBCT group, we found a trend increase in right amygdala response to negative images, which was significantly correlated with a decrease in depression score. No effects or trends were observed in the control group. This finding suggests that the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states. This is consistent with the hypothesis that meditation training may induce learning that is not stimulus- or task-specific, but process-specific, and thereby may result in enduring changes in mental function.

Keywords: amygdala; attention; compassion; emotion; fMRI; meditation; mindfulness.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Coronal, sagittal, and horizontal views of the brain of one study participant. The right amygdala is marked by a red crosshair and colored in blue. The other colors indicate different brain regions as automatically segmented by the FreeSurfer software.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Percentage BOLD signal change in right amygdala for all three groups of subjects (CBCT, MAT, CTRL), in the pre-intervention scan (PRE) and in the post-intervention scan (POST), (A) for images of all valences, (B) for images with positive valence (POS), (C) for images with negative valence (NEG), and (D) for images with neutral valence (NEU). The asterisks indicate statistically significant differences between PRE and POST (two-tailed paired t-tests, p < 0.05). Bars represent mean ± standard error.
Figure 3
Figure 3
PRE-POST difference in percentage BOLD signal change in right amygdala as a function of total meditation practice time. Each data point corresponds to an individual subject. The CBCT group is shown in blue, the MAT group in red. Linear regression lines are shown in corresponding colors.
Figure 4
Figure 4
PRE-POST difference in depression score as a function of PRE-POST difference in percentage BOLD signal change in right amygdala. Each data point corresponds to an individual subject. The CBCT group is shown in blue, the MAT group in red. Linear regression lines are shown in corresponding colors.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 67 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

References

    1. Amaro E., Barker G. J. (2006). Study design in fMRI: basic principles. Brain Cogn. 60, 220–232 10.1016/j.bandc.2005.11.009 - DOI - PubMed
    1. Austin J. H. (2009). Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2009.02704.x - DOI
    1. Baijal S., Jha A. P., Kiyonaga A., Singh R., Srinivasan N. (2011). The influence of concentrative meditation training on the development of attention networks during early adolescence. Front. Psychol. 2:153 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00153 - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Baxter M. G., Murray E. A. (2002). The amygdala and reward. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 3, 563–573 10.1038/nrn875 - DOI - PubMed
    1. Beauregard M., Lévesque J., Bourgouin P. (2001). Neural correlates of conscious self-regulation of emotion. J. Neurosci. 21, RC165 - PMC - PubMed

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback