Increases in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and decreases the rostral prefrontal cortex activation after-8 weeks of focused attention based mindfulness meditation

Brain Cogn. 2016 Feb;102:46-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2015.12.004. Epub 2015 Dec 22.


Mindfulness meditation is a form of attention control training. The training exercises the ability to repeatedly focus attention. We addressed the activation changes related to an 8-weeks mindfulness-oriented focused attention meditation training on an initially naïve subject cohort. Before and after training participants underwent an fMRI experiment, thus, although not strictly a cross over design, they served as their internal own control. During fMRI they exercised focused attention on breathing and body scan as compared to resting. We found increased and decreased activation in different parts of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) by comparing pre- vs. post-mindfulness training (MT) during breathing and body scan meditation exercises that were compared against their own resting state. In the post-MT (vs. pre-MT) meditation increased activation in the right dorsolateral PFC and in the left caudate/anterior insula and decreased activation in the rostral PFC and right parietal area 3b. Thus a brief mindfulness training caused increased activation in areas involved in sustaining and monitoring the focus of attention (dorsolateral PFC), consistent with the aim of mindfulness that is exercising focused attention mechanisms, and in the left caudate/anterior insula involved in attention and corporeal awareness and decreased activation in areas part of the "default mode" network and is involved in mentalizing (rostral PFC), consistent with the ability trained by mindfulness of reducing spontaneous mind wandering.

Keywords: Attention; Mindfulness meditation; Prefrontal cortex; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Mindfulness*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Theory of Mind / physiology
  • Young Adult