Disentangling the neural mechanisms involved in Hinduism- and Buddhism-related meditations

Barbara Tomasino, Alberto Chiesa, Franco Fabbro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The most diffuse forms of meditation derive from Hinduism and Buddhism spiritual traditions. Different cognitive processes are set in place to reach these meditation states. According to an historical-philological hypothesis (Wynne, 2009) the two forms of meditation could be disentangled. While mindfulness is the focus of Buddhist meditation reached by focusing sustained attention on the body, on breathing and on the content of the thoughts, reaching an ineffable state of nothigness accompanied by a loss of sense of self and duality (Samadhi) is the main focus of Hinduism-inspired meditation. It is possible that these different practices activate separate brain networks. We tested this hypothesis by conducting an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. The network related to Buddhism-inspired meditation (16 experiments, 263 subjects, and 96 activation foci) included activations in some frontal lobe structures associated with executive attention, possibly confirming the fundamental role of mindfulness shared by many Buddhist meditations. By contrast, the network related to Hinduism-inspired meditation (8 experiments, 54 activation foci and 66 subjects) triggered a left lateralized network of areas including the postcentral gyrus, the superior parietal lobe, the hippocampus and the right middle cingulate cortex. The dissociation between anterior and posterior networks support the notion that different meditation styles and traditions are characterized by different patterns of neural activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume90
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Default system
  • Executive attention
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Superior medial gyrus
  • Yoga

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Disentangling the neural mechanisms involved in Hinduism- and Buddhism-related meditations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this