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Sci Rep. 2018 May 21;8(1):7929. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26268-w.

Mindfulness training induces structural connectome changes in insula networks.

Sharp PB1, Sutton BP2,3,4, Paul EJ2, Sherepa N2,3, Hillman CH5, Cohen NJ2,3,6, Kramer AF2,5, Prakash RS7, Heller W2,3,6, Telzer EH8, Barbey AK9,10,11,12,13,14,15.

Author information

1
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA. psharp89@live.unc.edu.
2
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Champaign-Urbana, USA.
3
Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA.
4
Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA.
5
Northeastern University, Champaign-Urbana, USA.
6
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA.
7
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.
8
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA.
9
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
10
Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
11
Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
12
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
13
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
14
Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.
15
Center for Brain Plasticity, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, USA. barbey@illinois.edu.

Abstract

Although mindfulness meditation is known to provide a wealth of psychological benefits, the neural mechanisms involved in these effects remain to be well characterized. A central question is whether the observed benefits of mindfulness training derive from specific changes in the structural brain connectome that do not result from alternative forms of experimental intervention. Measures of whole-brain and node-level structural connectome changes induced by mindfulness training were compared with those induced by cognitive and physical fitness training within a large, multi-group intervention protocol (nā€‰=ā€‰86). Whole-brain analyses examined global graph-theoretical changes in structural network topology. A hypothesis-driven approach was taken to investigate connectivity changes within the insula, which was predicted here to mediate interoceptive awareness skills that have been shown to improve through mindfulness training. No global changes were observed in whole-brain network topology. However, node-level results confirmed a priori hypotheses, demonstrating significant increases in mean connection strength in right insula across all of its connections. Present findings suggest that mindfulness strengthens interoception, operationalized here as the mean insula connection strength within the overall connectome. This finding further elucidates the neural mechanisms of mindfulness meditation and motivates new perspectives about the unique benefits of mindfulness training compared to contemporary cognitive and physical fitness interventions.

PMID:
29785055
PMCID:
PMC5962606
DOI:
10.1038/s41598-018-26268-w
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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