Meditation trains the mind to focus attention towards an object or experience. Among different meditation techniques, focused attention meditation is considered foundational for more advanced practices. Despite renewed interest in its functional neural correlates, there is no unified neurocognitive model of focused attention meditation developed via quantitative synthesis of contemporary literature. Hence, we performed a quantitative systematic review and meta-analysis of all functional MRI studies examining focussed attention meditation. Following PRISMA guidelines, 28 studies were included in this review, of which 10 studies (200 participants) were amenable to activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis. We found that regions comprising three key functional brain networks i.e., Default-mode, Salience, and Executive Control, were consistently implicated in focused attention meditation. Furthermore, meditation expertise, mindfulness levels and attentional skills were found to significantly influence the magnitude, but not regional extent, of activation and functional connectivity in these networks. Aggregating all evidence, we present a unified neurocognitive brain-network model of focused attention meditation.
Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Focused attention; Functional MRI; Meditation; Meta-analysis; Neural correlates; Neurocognitive model; Systematic review.
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