The network property of the thalamus in the default mode network is correlated with trait mindfulness

Neuroscience. 2014 Oct 10;278:291-301. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.08.006. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Mindfulness is typically defined as nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, which is beneficial for mental and physical well-being. Previous studies have identified multiple regions in the default mode network (DMN) that are involved in mindfulness, but little is known about how these regions work collaboratively as a network. Here, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the role of the DMN in trait mindfulness by correlating spontaneous functional connectivity among DMN nodes with self-reported trait mindfulness in a large population of young human adults. Among all pairs of the DMN nodes, we found that individuals with weaker functional connectivity between the thalamus and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) were more mindful of the present. Post-hoc analyses of these two nodes further revealed that graph-based nodal properties of the thalamus, not the PCC, were negatively correlated with trait mindfulness, suggesting that a low involvement of the thalamus in the DMN is relevant for high trait mindfulness. Our findings not only suggest the thalamus as a switch between mind-wandering and mindfulness, but also invite future studies on mechanisms of how mindfulness produces beneficial effects by modulating the thalamus.

Keywords: default mode network; graph-based network analysis; mindfulness; posterior cingulate cortex; resting-state functional connectivity; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mindfulness*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Young Adult