Neural correlates of nondual awareness in meditation

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Jan:1307:9-18. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12261. Epub 2013 Sep 4.


Dualities such as self versus other, good versus bad, and in-group versus out-group are pervasive features of human experience, structuring the majority of cognitive and affective processes. Yet, an entirely different way of experiencing, one in which such dualities are relaxed rather than fortified, is also available. It depends on recognizing, within the stream of our consciousness, the nondual awareness (NDA)--a background awareness that precedes conceptualization and intention and that can contextualize various perceptual, affective, or cognitive contents without fragmenting the field of experience into habitual dualities. This paper introduces NDA as experienced in Tibetan Buddhist meditation and reviews the results of our study on the influence of NDA on anticorrelated intrinsic and extrinsic networks in the brain. Also discussed are preliminary data from a current study of NDA with minimized phenomenal content that points to involvement of a precuneus network in NDA.

Keywords: anticorrelated intrinsic/extrinsic networks; meditation; neural correlates; nondual awareness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awareness
  • Brain
  • Buddhism*
  • Cognition*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Meditation*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sleep