Alterations of Regional Homogeneity and Functional Connectivity Following Short-Term Mindfulness Meditation in Healthy Volunteers

Front Hum Neurosci. 2019 Oct 18;13:376. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00376. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

Mindfulness is described as the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment. The sustained practice of mindfulness may also have beneficial effects on an individual's well-being. For instance, mindfulness meditation is an effective approach for improving emotion regulation. Specifically, the early stage of mindfulness meditation training enhances emotional monitoring systems related to attention regulation and executive function. Reduced activity in the default mode network (DMN) would probably be observed corresponding to the attenuated mind wandering. In the present study, we hypothesized that alterations in functional activity in the frontal-parietal cortex and DMN may be induced by short-term mindfulness meditation. In this study, before and after 8 weeks of weekly Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, healthy participants were evaluated using a mindfulness questionnaire and an affect schedule, as well as via resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sixteen right-handed non-meditators were enrolled. Another 16 demographically matched healthy adults without any meditation experience were recruited as controls. Pre- and post-MBSR assessments were compared. Increased regional homogeneity in the right superior parietal lobule and left postcentral gyrus (PoCG), as well as altered functional connectivity in PoCG-related networks, were observed post-MBSR. The mindfulness questionnaire scores also improved and negative affect was significantly decreased after MBSR. Together with reduced involvement of the posterior brain, our results suggest a tendency toward stronger involvement of the parietal cortex in mindfulness beginners. This study provides novel evidence regarding the optimization of emotional processing with short-term mindfulness meditation.

Keywords: default mode network; emotion regulation; functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging; mindfulness; regional homogeneity.