The objective of this research project is to gain new insights on the long-term impact of meditation on basic affective and attention functions and on the brain mechanisms that subserve these processes. This project will focus on two standard meditative states and will study these states in a population of highly trained Buddhist lamas and a population of non-practitioners. The first meditative practice develops attention stability. In the second practice, the subject voluntarily generates a state of compassion. This research seeks to make these mental states a focus of scientific study. It could provide original data on the neural processes by which meditation plays a beneficial role in emotion regulation. Furthermore, these data would provide novel evidence to the view that attention and affective processes are flexible skills that can be trained. This study involves the measurement of functional and dynamical brain activity during these meditative states with high-density electroencephalography (EEG, 128 channels) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, 3T). The fMRI and EEG paradigms will be run sequentially but with similar tasks allowing their complementary information to be combined. The primary aims of this research are: a) to identify the neural circuitry and neural mechanisms involved in the generation and the maintenance of these meditative states, and b) to characterize the impact of these states on the brain response to aversive, pleasant or neutral auditory stimuli. These questions will be addressed: a) from the EEG data, by studying the role of neural synchrony at fastfrequencies (30-80Hz) in the neural processes underlying meditation and b) from the fMRI data, by studying the role of amygdala, insula and prefrontal cortex in the generation and maintenance of these meditative states.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAT1-DB (15))
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Stoney, Catherine
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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MacCoon, Donal G; MacLean, Katherine A; Davidson, Richard J et al. (2014) No sustained attention differences in a longitudinal randomized trial comparing mindfulness based stress reduction versus active control. PLoS One 9:e97551
Rosenkranz, Melissa A; Davidson, Richard J; Maccoon, Donal G et al. (2013) A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain Behav Immun 27:174-84
Lutz, Antoine; McFarlin, Daniel R; Perlman, David M et al. (2013) Altered anterior insula activation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators. Neuroimage 64:538-46
MacCoon, Donal G; Imel, Zac E; Rosenkranz, Melissa A et al. (2012) The validation of an active control intervention for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Behav Res Ther 50:3-12
Slagter, Heleen A; Davidson, Richard J; Lutz, Antoine (2011) Mental training as a tool in the neuroscientific study of brain and cognitive plasticity. Front Hum Neurosci 5:17
Perlman, David M; Salomons, Tim V; Davidson, Richard J et al. (2010) Differential effects on pain intensity and unpleasantness of two meditation practices. Emotion 10:65-71
Lutz, Antoine; Greischar, Lawrence L; Perlman, David M et al. (2009) BOLD signal in insula is differentially related to cardiac function during compassion meditation in experts vs. novices. Neuroimage 47:1038-46
Lutz, Antoine; Slagter, Heleen A; Rawlings, Nancy B et al. (2009) Mental training enhances attentional stability: neural and behavioral evidence. J Neurosci 29:13418-27
Slagter, Heleen A; Lutz, Antoine; Greischar, Lawrence L et al. (2009) Theta phase synchrony and conscious target perception: impact of intensive mental training. J Cogn Neurosci 21:1536-49
Lutz, Antoine; Slagter, Heleen A; Dunne, John D et al. (2008) Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends Cogn Sci 12:163-9

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