TSC 2010 Pre-Conference Workshop

Session 2, Monday Afternoon, April 12 (2:00p-6:00p)      TCC - MARICOPA

Half Day, $75


Neuroimaging of Meditation Workshop: Imaging Meditation and fMRI Analysis of Transcendental Meditation


David Hubbard, Alarik Arenander


Background: Four decades of meditation research have examined EEG parameters as well as peripheral physiological measures including heart rate, respiration and electrodermal activity. Initial studies of direct imaging of meditative brainstates have been reported. The reported ability of meditation to provide access to “deeper, more expanded” states of cognitive function is of particular interest in light of the default mode network underlying spontaneous, non-directed mentation. Moreover, the significance of intrinsic brain functioning may find a unified, fundamental basis in a ‘ground state’ of cognitive function reported during transcendental experiences. The first part of this workshop will review the current status of published neuroimaging findings across various meditative techniques in the context of intrinsic brain function. 

Recent studies of fMRI and of EEG During Meditation: There have been a few fMRI studies of cognitive responses to tasks after meditation training, but no fMRI studies during meditation. The second part of this workshop will review the EEG studies and the first imaging studies of Transcendental Meditation. 

EEG Review of Transcending: Many EEG studies of Transcendental meditation have shown a predominance of alpha power and a frontal-central alpha coherence and significant reduction in beta and the relative extinction of gamma power. 

fMRI Study of Transcending: In Study 1, subjects were asked to rest with their eyes closed for 1 minute then meditate for 20 minutes, then rest with eyes closed for 1.5 minutes. fMRI brain images were collected continuously. The average of 5 epochs of 30 seconds each (2.5 minutes) of meditation at 13 minutes were contrasted with (subtracted from) the average of 5 epochs of 30seconds each (2.5 minutes) of eyes-closed rest before and after meditation (TR 2000, TE 30, 33 slices).  In Study 2, subjects were instructed to cycle between three states--resting with eyes closed, daydreaming, and meditation every 30-46 seconds for a total of 5 cycles (BOLD EPI collected at TR 2000 TE 30, 33 slices). The brain images show meditation contrasted with daydreaming.

fMRI Findings: We studied 19 practitioners of TM, aged 18 to 62, with 3 months to 30 years experience in daily practice. fMRI images ranged from widespread activation to very localized areas of activation and deactivation.  Brain patterns fell into three groups: 1) widespread activation in executive and sensory areas  and activation in rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) associated with attention , 2) deactivation in executive and sensory areas with sustained activation in RLPFC, 3) deactivation in RLPFC and activation in unilateral insula.

Discussion and Future Directions: We will conclude the workshop with a discussion of how these findings and possible future experimental designs can help clarify key issues regarding unique brainstates during meditation and how an expanded understanding of these meditative states across traditions can help to define the significance of the default state, and the nature and role of intrinsic brain activity.

                                                                                                        *   *   *

David Hubbard MD, Applied fMRI Institute, San Diego, CA

Alarik Arenander, PhD, Brain Research Institute, Fairfield, IA