The brain network governing meditation has been studied using a variety of meditation practices and techniques practices eliciting different cognitive processes (e.g., silence, attention to own body, sense of joy, mantras, etc.). It is very possible that different practices of meditation are subserved by largely, if not entirely, disparate brain networks. This assumption was tested by conducting an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of meditation neuroimaging studies, which assessed 150 activation foci from 24 experiments. Different ALE meta-analyses were carried out. One involved the subsets of studies involving meditation induced through exercising focused attention (FA). The network included clusters bilaterally in the medial gyrus, the left superior parietal lobe, the left insula and the right supramarginal gyrus (SMG). A second analysis addressed the studies involving meditation states induced by chanting or by repetition of words or phrases, known as "mantra." This type of practice elicited a cluster of activity in the right SMG, the SMA bilaterally and the left postcentral gyrus. Furthermore, the last analyses addressed the effect of meditation experience (i.e., short- vs. long-term meditators). We found that frontal activation was present for short-term, as compared with long-term experience meditators, confirming that experts are better enabled to sustain attentional focus, rather recruiting the right SMG and concentrating on aspects involving disembodiment.
Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; attention; expertise; fMRI; meditation.