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Neuroimage. 2012 May 15;61(1):181-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.026. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Bridging the hemispheres in meditation: thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7334, USA.

Abstract

Recent findings suggest a close link between long-term meditation practices and the structure of the corpus callosum. Prior analyses, however, have focused on estimating mean fractional anisotropy (FA) within two large pre-defined callosal tracts only. Additional effects might exist in other, non-explored callosal regions and/or with respect to callosal attributes not captured by estimates of FA. To further explore callosal features in the framework of meditation, we analyzed 30 meditators and 30 controls, carefully matched for sex, age, and handedness. We applied a multimodal imaging approach using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in combination with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Callosal measures of tract-specific FA were complemented with other global (segment-specific) estimates as well as extremely local (point-wise) measures of callosal micro- and macro-structure. Callosal measures were larger in long-term meditators compared to controls, particularly in anterior callosal sections. However, differences achieved significance only when increasing the regional sensitivity of the measurement (i.e., using point-wise measures versus segment-specific measures) and were more prominent for microscopic than macroscopic characteristics (i.e., callosal FA versus callosal thickness). Thicker callosal regions and enhanced FA in meditators might indicate greater connectivity, possibly reflecting increased hemispheric integration during cerebral processes involving (pre)frontal regions. Such a brain organization might be linked to achieving characteristic mental states and skills as associated with meditation, though this hypothesis requires behavioral confirmation. Moreover, longitudinal studies are required to address whether the observed callosal effects are induced by meditation or constitute an innate prerequisite for the start or successful continuation of meditation.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID:
22374478
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3345952
Free PMC Article

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