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Functional neuroanatomy of meditation: A review and meta-analysis of 78 functional neuroimaging investigations

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Ellamil,  Melissa
Max Planck Research Group Neuroanatomy and Connectivity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Fox, K. C. R., Dixon, M. L., Nijeboer, S., Girn, M., Floman, J. L., Lifshitz, M., et al. (2016). Functional neuroanatomy of meditation: A review and meta-analysis of 78 functional neuroimaging investigations. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 65, 208-228. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.03.021.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-137C-1
Abstract
Meditation is a family of mental practices that encompasses a wide array of techniques employing distinctive mental strategies. We systematically reviewed 78 functional neuroimaging (fMRI and PET) studies of meditation, and used activation likelihood estimation to meta-analyze 257 peak foci from 31 experiments involving 527 participants. We found reliably dissociable patterns of brain activation and deactivation for four common styles of meditation (focused attention, mantra recitation, open monitoring, and compassion/loving-kindness), and suggestive differences for three others (visualization, sense-withdrawal, and non-dual awareness practices). Overall, dissociable activation patterns are congruent with the psychological and behavioral aims of each practice. Some brain areas are recruited consistently across multiple techniques—including insula, pre/supplementary motor cortices, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and frontopolar cortex—but convergence is the exception rather than the rule. A preliminary effect-size meta-analysis found medium effects for both activations (d = 0.59) and deactivations (d = −0.74), suggesting potential practical significance. Our meta-analysis supports the neurophysiological dissociability of meditation practices, but also raises many methodological concerns and suggests avenues for future research.