Signal or noise: brain network interactions underlying the experience and training of mindfulness

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Apr;1369(1):240-56. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13044. Epub 2016 Apr 1.


A broad set of brain regions has been associated with the experience and training of mindfulness. Many of these regions lie within key intrinsic brain networks, including the executive control, salience, and default networks. In this paper, we review the existing literature on the cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness through the lens of network science. We describe the characteristics of the intrinsic brain networks implicated in mindfulness and summarize the relevant findings pertaining to changes in functional connectivity (FC) within and between these networks. Convergence across these findings suggests that mindfulness may be associated with increased FC between two regions within the default network: the posterior cingulate cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Additionally, extensive meditation experience may be associated with increased FC between the insula and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. However, little consensus has emerged within the existing literature owing to the diversity of operational definitions of mindfulness, neuroimaging methods, and network characterizations. We describe several challenges to develop a coherent cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness and to provide detailed recommendations for future research.

Keywords: brain networks; functional connectivity; meditation; mindfulness.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*