The purpose of this study is to use brain imaging technology to identify the parts of the
brain that are activated during meditation and to compare these parts to those activated
during other activities. This study will also determine the effects of meditation on
involuntary functions, such as breathing.
Meditation and relaxation-based interventions are becoming more widely accepted in clinical
settings because of their low cost, low risk, and proven effectiveness as a complementary
intervention in a wide range of diseases. Despite the success and growing use of
relaxation-based treatments, few studies have addressed the basic mechanism by which these
treatments work. This study will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to define
the brain mechanisms underlying the meditative state, to differentiate this state from other
states, and to determine how meditation-induced brain changes affect autonomic function.
Participants in this study will have an fMRI brain scan. Brain activity, breathing rate, and
heart rate will be measured while the participant engages in three different activities:
lying quietly, meditating, and mentally generating numbers.
- Daily practice of Vipassana or Kundalini meditation for at least 1 year and
participation in at least one 1-week meditation retreat
- Current medical or psychological illness
- Use of antidepressants, antianxiolytics, or compounds that alter cerebral blood flow