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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Oct 15;8:832. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00832. eCollection 2014.

Magnetoencephalographic alpha band connectivity reveals differential default mode network interactions during focused attention and open monitoring meditation.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience, Imaging and Clinical Sciences, "G. d'Annunzio" University Chieti, Italy ; Institute for Advanced Biomedical Technologies, "G. d'Annunzio" University Chieti, Italy.
2
Department of Psychology, Sapienza University Rome, Italy.

Abstract

According to several conceptualizations of meditation, the interplay between brain systems associated to self-related processing, attention and executive control is crucial for meditative states and related traits. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to investigate such interplay in a highly selected group of "virtuoso" meditators (Theravada Buddhist monks), with long-term training in the two main meditation styles: focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) meditation. Specifically, we investigated the differences between FA meditation, OM meditation and resting state in the coupling between the posterior cingulate cortex, core node of the Default Mode Network (DMN) implicated in mind wandering and self-related processing, and the whole brain, with a recently developed phase coherence approach. Our findings showed a state dependent coupling of posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) to nodes of the DMN and of the executive control brain network in the alpha frequency band (8-12 Hz), related to different attentional and cognitive control processes in FA and OM meditation, consistently with the putative role of alpha band synchronization in the functional mechanisms for attention and consciousness. The coupling of PCC with left medial prefrontal cortex (lmPFC) and superior frontal gyrus characterized the contrast between the two meditation styles in a way that correlated with meditation expertise. These correlations may be related to a higher mindful observing ability and a reduced identification with ongoing mental activity in more expert meditators. Notably, different styles of meditation and different meditation expertise appeared to modulate the dynamic balance between fronto-parietal (FP) and DMN networks. Our results support the idea that the interplay between the DMN and the FP network in the alpha band is crucial for the transition from resting state to different meditative states.

KEYWORDS:

brain rhythms; default mode network; magnetoencephalography; meditation; mindfulness; resting state networks

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