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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Jun;43:48-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016. Epub 2014 Apr 3.

Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. Electronic address: kfox@psych.ubc.ca.
2
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
3
Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, University of British Columbia, 2125 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
4
Institut für Psychologie, Technische Universität Chemnitz, 43 Wilhelm-Raabe Street, Chemnitz, Germany.
5
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada; Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 2B5, Canada.

Abstract

Numerous studies have begun to address how the brain's gray and white matter may be shaped by meditation. This research is yet to be integrated, however, and two fundamental questions remain: Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? If so, what is the magnitude of these differences? To address these questions, we reviewed and meta-analyzed 123 brain morphology differences from 21 neuroimaging studies examining ∼300 meditation practitioners. Anatomical likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis found eight brain regions consistently altered in meditators, including areas key to meta-awareness (frontopolar cortex/BA 10), exteroceptive and interoceptive body awareness (sensory cortices and insula), memory consolidation and reconsolidation (hippocampus), self and emotion regulation (anterior and mid cingulate; orbitofrontal cortex), and intra- and interhemispheric communication (superior longitudinal fasciculus; corpus callosum). Effect size meta-analysis (calculating 132 effect sizes from 16 studies) suggests a global 'medium' effect size (Cohen's d¯=0.46; r¯=.19). Publication bias and methodological limitations are strong concerns, however. Further research using rigorous methods is required to definitively link meditation practice to altered brain morphology.

KEYWORDS:

Anatomical likelihood estimation; Diffusion tensor imaging; Gray matter concentration; Meditation; Mental practice; Meta-analysis; Mindfulness; Morphometric neuroimaging; Neuroimaging; Structural neuroimaging; Systematic review; Voxel based morphometry

PMID:
24705269
DOI:
10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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