The default mode network as a biomarker for monitoring the therapeutic effects of meditation

Front Psychol. 2015 Jun 9;6:776. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00776. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

The default mode network (DMN) is a group of anatomically separate regions in the brain found to have synchronized patterns of activation in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Mentation associated with the DMN includes processes such as mind wandering, autobiographical memory, self-reflective thought, envisioning the future, and considering the perspective of others. Abnormalities in the DMN have been linked to symptom severity in a variety of mental disorders indicating that the DMN could be used as a biomarker for diagnosis. These correlations have also led to the use of DMN modulation as a biomarker for assessing pharmacological treatments. Concurrent research investigating the neural correlates of meditation, have associated DMN modulation with practice. Furthermore, meditative practice is increasingly understood to have a beneficial role in the treatment of mental disorders. Therefore we propose the use of DMN measures as a biomarker for monitoring the therapeutic effects of meditation practices in mental disorders. Recent findings support this perspective, and indicate the utility of DMN monitoring in understanding and developing meditative treatments for these debilitating conditions.

Keywords: DMN modulation; biomarker; default mode network; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); meditation; mindfulness; neuroimaging; therapy.