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, 10 (1), 43-9

Short-term Meditation Modulates Brain Activity of Insight Evoked With Solution Cue

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Short-term Meditation Modulates Brain Activity of Insight Evoked With Solution Cue

Xiaoqian Ding et al. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci.

Abstract

Meditation has been shown to improve creativity in some situation. However, little is known about the brain systems underling insight into a problem when the person fails to solve the problem. Here, we examined the neural correlation using Chinese Remote Association Test, as a measure of creativity. We provide a solution following the failure of the participant to provide one. We examine how meditation in comparison with relaxation influences the reaction of the participant to a correct solution. The event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging showed greater activity, mainly distributed in the right cingulate gyrus (CG), insula, putamen, inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and the bilateral middle frontal gyrus (MFG), the inferior parietal lobule (IPL) and the superior temporal gyrus (STG). This pattern of activation was greater following 5 h of meditation training than the same amount of relaxation. Based on prior research, we speculate on the function of this pattern of brain activity: (i) CG may be involved in detecting conflict and breaking mental set, (ii) MFG/IFG may play an important role in restructuring of the problem representation, (iii) insula, IPL and STG may be associated with error detection, problem understanding or general attentive control and (iv) putamen may be activated by 'Aha' feeling.

Keywords: event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging; insight; integrative body–mind training; short-term meditation.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Sequence of events for each trial. (A) The Chinese RAT prompt was presented for 0.5 s, and then persisted for a variable amount of time (0–2 s) until a cue from the scanner indicated the beginning of a new whole-brain acquisition. (B) A three-word problem appeared on the screen and persisted until the participant indicated (with a button press) that s/he had solved the problem, or until the 19 s time limit elapsed. Thus, event timing and condition were completely dependent on the participant’s responses. (C) Following the button press or time limit, the standard solution to the previous problem appeared on the screen and then (D) the participant was prompted to press a button or not: (1) number one button, the solution participant thought of was identical to the standard solution; (2) number two button, the solution participant thought of was different from the standard one but s/he believed the standard solution was more reasonable, or did not think of the solution by herself/himself and believed the standard solution matched the problem. The participant did not need to press any button if s/he could not understand the meaning of the standard solution, or did not think the standard solution matched the problem. If participant could understand the meaning of the standard solution, they were required to press the button as accurately and quickly as possible once the standard solution appeared. Only those trials in which the solutions were judged as (2) mentioned above were included in the fMRI analysis, because it was regarded as including an insight process. (E) A central fixation cross that lasted for 8 s was presented, signaling the onset of the preparation interval and allowing BOLD signal to return to the baseline (Ogawa et al., 1992). After the fixation cross, the next problem was presented.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Comparison maps of BOLD signal change in IBMT compared with RT at the solution uncovered moment after training. The maps were overlaid on the averaged normalized structural image, t(30) = 3.713, P < 0.05, FDR corrected. The first row shows (left to right) three coronal images, and the second row shows (left to right) a sagittal image and a coronal image (with the left hemisphere on the left of sagittal and coronal images) centered on clusters of significant size (contiguous voxel size threshold >10; no clusters of significant size showed the reverse pattern). Results show 10 clusters: the right CG, the right insula, the right putamen, the left MFG, the right MFG, the right IFG, the left IPL, the left STG, the right IPL and the right STG. Ant, anterior; post, posterior; L, left; R, right.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Comparison of average percent signal change of ROIs (right CG, right insula, right putamen, left STG and left IPL) between the IBMT group (red) and the RT group (blue) before training and after training. Error bars show the standard error of the mean at each time point.

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