Using theoretical analysis of self-consciousness concept and experimental evidence on the brain default mode network (DMN) that constitutes the neural signature of self-referential processes, we hypothesized that the anterior and posterior subnets comprising the DMN should show differences in their integrity as a function of meditation training. Functional connectivity within DMN and its subnets (measured by operational synchrony) has been measured in ten novice meditators using an electroencephalogram (EEG) recording in a pre-/post-meditation intervention design. We have found that while the whole DMN was clearly suppressed, different subnets of DMN responded differently after 4 months of meditation training: The strength of EEG operational synchrony in the right and left posterior modules of the DMN decreased in resting post-meditation condition compared to a pre-meditation condition, whereas the frontal DMN module on the contrary exhibited an increase in the strength of EEG operational synchrony. These findings combined with published data on functional-anatomic heterogeneity within the DMN and on trait subjective experiences commonly found following meditation allow us to propose that the first-person perspective and the sense of agency (the witnessing observer) are presented by the frontal DMN module, while the posterior modules of the DMN are generally responsible for the experience of the continuity of 'I' as embodied and localized within bodily space. Significance of these findings is discussed.
Keywords: DMN; Electroencephalogram (EEG); Functional connectivity; Meditation; Mind–body practice; Operational modules; Operational synchrony; Self; Self-consciousness; Self-referential processing; Yoga.