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J Neurosci. 2012 Apr 11;32(15):5242-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4135-11.2012.

Dynamical properties of BOLD activity from the ventral posteromedial cortex associated with meditation and attentional skills.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, I-41125 Modena, Italy. giuseppe.pagnoni@unimore.it

Abstract

Neuroimaging data suggest a link between the spontaneous production of thoughts during wakeful rest and slow fluctuations of activity in the default mode network (DMN), a set of brain regions with high basal metabolism and a major neural hub in the ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC). Meta-awareness and regulation of mind-wandering are core cognitive components of most contemplative practices and to study their impact on DMN activity, we collected functional MRI (fMRI) data from a cohort of experienced Zen meditators and meditation-naive controls engaging in a basic attention-to-breathing protocol. We observed a significant group difference in the skewness of the fMRI BOLD signal from the vPMC, suggesting that the relative incidence of states of elevated vPMC activity was lower in meditators; furthermore, the same parameter was significantly correlated with performance on a rapid visual information processing (RVIP) test for sustained attention conducted outside the scanner. Finally, a functional connectivity analysis with the vPMC seed revealed a significant association of RVIP performance with the degree of temporal correlation between vPMC and the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ), a region strongly implicated in stimulus-triggered reorienting of attention. Together, these findings suggest that the vPMC BOLD signal skewness and the temporal relationship of vPMC and TPJ activities reflect the dynamic tension between mind-wandering, meta-awareness, and directed attention, and may represent a useful endophenotype for studying individual differences in attentional abilities and the impairment of the latter in specific clinical conditions.

PMID:
22496570
PMCID:
PMC3362741
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4135-11.2012
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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