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      Meditation reduces pain-related neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, secondary somatosensory cortex, and thalamus

      1 , 2 , 1 , 1

      Frontiers in Psychology

      Frontiers Media S.A.

      MEG, EEG, fMRI, pain matrix, Yoga

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          Recent studies have shown that meditation inhibits or relieves pain perception. To clarify the underlying mechanisms for this phenomenon, neuroimaging methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, and neurophysiological methods, such as magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography, have been used. However, it has been difficult to interpret the results, because there is some paradoxical evidence. For example, some studies reported increased neural responses to pain stimulation during meditation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insula, whereas others showed a decrease in these regions. There have been inconsistent findings to date. Moreover, in general, since the activities of the ACC and insula are correlated with pain perception, the increase in neural activities during meditation would be related to the enhancement of pain perception rather than its reduction. These contradictions might directly contribute to the ‘mystery of meditation.’ In this review, we presented previous findings for brain regions during meditation and the anatomical changes that occurred in the brain with long-term meditation training. We then discussed the findings of previous studies that examined pain-related neural activity during meditation. We also described the brain mechanisms responsible for pain relief during meditation, and possible reasons for paradoxical evidence among previous studies. By thoroughly overviewing previous findings, we hypothesized that meditation reduces pain-related neural activity in the ACC, insula, secondary somatosensory cortex, and thalamus. We suggest that the characteristics of the modulation of this activity may depend on the kind of meditation and/or number of years of experience of meditation, which were associated with paradoxical findings among previous studies that investigated pain-related neural activities during meditation.

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          Most cited references 113

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          The human brain is intrinsically organized into dynamic, anticorrelated functional networks.

          During performance of attention-demanding cognitive tasks, certain regions of the brain routinely increase activity, whereas others routinely decrease activity. In this study, we investigate the extent to which this task-related dichotomy is represented intrinsically in the resting human brain through examination of spontaneous fluctuations in the functional MRI blood oxygen level-dependent signal. We identify two diametrically opposed, widely distributed brain networks on the basis of both spontaneous correlations within each network and anticorrelations between networks. One network consists of regions routinely exhibiting task-related activations and the other of regions routinely exhibiting task-related deactivations. This intrinsic organization, featuring the presence of anticorrelated networks in the absence of overt task performance, provides a critical context in which to understand brain function. We suggest that both task-driven neuronal responses and behavior are reflections of this dynamic, ongoing, functional organization of the brain.
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            Measuring the thickness of the human cerebral cortex from magnetic resonance images.

             B Fischl,  Anders Dale (2000)
            Accurate and automated methods for measuring the thickness of human cerebral cortex could provide powerful tools for diagnosing and studying a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. Manual methods for estimating cortical thickness from neuroimaging data are labor intensive, requiring several days of effort by a trained anatomist. Furthermore, the highly folded nature of the cortex is problematic for manual techniques, frequently resulting in measurement errors in regions in which the cortical surface is not perpendicular to any of the cardinal axes. As a consequence, it has been impractical to obtain accurate thickness estimates for the entire cortex in individual subjects, or group statistics for patient or control populations. Here, we present an automated method for accurately measuring the thickness of the cerebral cortex across the entire brain and for generating cross-subject statistics in a coordinate system based on cortical anatomy. The intersubject standard deviation of the thickness measures is shown to be less than 0.5 mm, implying the ability to detect focal atrophy in small populations or even individual subjects. The reliability and accuracy of this new method are assessed by within-subject test-retest studies, as well as by comparison of cross-subject regional thickness measures with published values.
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              Searching for a baseline: functional imaging and the resting human brain.

              Functional brain imaging in humans has revealed task-specific increases in brain activity that are associated with various mental activities. In the same studies, mysterious, task-independent decreases have also frequently been encountered, especially when the tasks of interest have been compared with a passive state, such as simple fixation or eyes closed. These decreases have raised the possibility that there might be a baseline or resting state of brain function involving a specific set of mental operations. We explore this possibility, including the manner in which we might define a baseline and the implications of such a baseline for our understanding of brain function.

                Author and article information

                1Department of Integrative Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences Okazaki, Japan
                2Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Human Life and Environment, Nara Women’s University Nara, Japan
                Author notes

                Edited by: Franco Fabbro, University of Udine, Italy

                Reviewed by: Guido P. H. Band, Leiden University, Netherlands; Katja Koelkebeck, University of Muenster, Germany

                *Correspondence: Hiroki Nakata, Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Human Life and Environment, Nara Women’s University, Kitauoya-Nishi Machi, Nara 630-8506, Japan e-mail: hiroki-nakata@

                This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                16 December 2014
                : 5
                4267182 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01489
                Copyright © 2014 Nakata, Sakamoto and Kakigi.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 1, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 113, Pages: 12, Words: 0
                Review Article

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry

                yoga, pain matrix, fmri, eeg, meg


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