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Neural correlates of mindful self-awareness in mindfulness meditators and meditation-naïve subjects revisited


Lutz, J; Brühl, A B; Scheerer, H; Jäncke, Lutz; Herwig, U (2016). Neural correlates of mindful self-awareness in mindfulness meditators and meditation-naïve subjects revisited. Biological Psychology, 119:21-30.

Abstract

Mindful self-awareness is central to mindfulness meditation and plays a key role in its salutary effects. It has been related to decreased activation in cortical midline structures (CMS) and amygdala, and increased activation in somatosensory regions. However, findings in untrained individuals are contradictory, and scarce in experienced meditators. Using fMRI, we investigated experienced mindfulness meditators (LTM, n=21, average 4652 practice-hours) and matched meditation-naïve participants (MNP, n=19) during short periods of mindful self-awareness (FEEL) and self-referential thinking (THINK). We report somatosensory activations and decreases in CMS during FEEL for both groups, but significantly stronger decreases in prefrontal CMS in LTM. LTM further showed decreases in language-related and amygdala regions, but the latter was not significantly different between groups. Overall, higher activations in amygdala and mid-line regions during FEEL were related to levels of depressiveness. Neural patterns of mindful self-awareness emerge already in MNP but more pronounced in LTM. Specifically, meditation training might reduce self-reference and verbalization during mindful awareness. We further corroborate the suggested link between mindfulness and healthy self-related functions on the neural level. Longitudinal studies need to corroborate these findings.

Abstract

Mindful self-awareness is central to mindfulness meditation and plays a key role in its salutary effects. It has been related to decreased activation in cortical midline structures (CMS) and amygdala, and increased activation in somatosensory regions. However, findings in untrained individuals are contradictory, and scarce in experienced meditators. Using fMRI, we investigated experienced mindfulness meditators (LTM, n=21, average 4652 practice-hours) and matched meditation-naïve participants (MNP, n=19) during short periods of mindful self-awareness (FEEL) and self-referential thinking (THINK). We report somatosensory activations and decreases in CMS during FEEL for both groups, but significantly stronger decreases in prefrontal CMS in LTM. LTM further showed decreases in language-related and amygdala regions, but the latter was not significantly different between groups. Overall, higher activations in amygdala and mid-line regions during FEEL were related to levels of depressiveness. Neural patterns of mindful self-awareness emerge already in MNP but more pronounced in LTM. Specifically, meditation training might reduce self-reference and verbalization during mindful awareness. We further corroborate the suggested link between mindfulness and healthy self-related functions on the neural level. Longitudinal studies need to corroborate these findings.

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3 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Date:1 July 2016
Deposited On:18 Jul 2016 14:00
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 19:59
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0301-0511
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.06.010
PubMed ID:27377788

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