[2019] Plastic Changes in the White Matter Induced by Templestay, a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Meditation Program

2020-07-15 10:32
Yoon, Youngwoo Bryan, Dahye Bae, Seoyeon Kwak, Wu Jeong Hwang, Kang Ik K. Cho, Kyung-Ok Lim, Hye Yoon Park, Tae Young Lee, Sung Nyun Kim, and Jun Soo Kwon. "Plastic Changes in the White Matter Induced by Templestay, a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Meditation Program." Mindfulness 10, no. 11 (2019): 2294-2301.

Further explorations are needed to determine how behavioral-lifestyle changes of various types influence neural plasticity in the white matter (WM); in particular, little is known about the influence of one’s self-discipline on changes in WM. A retreat program called Templestay follows the self-discipline practices used by Buddhist monks for 3 nights and 4 days; this program mainly involves meditation and other forms of behavioral-lifestyle modifications. In this study, we explored how neural plasticity occurs in WM structures in response to a relatively short retreat program.

We designed a longitudinal study that investigates WM neural plasticity over the course of Templestay. The Templestay group experienced the daily life of Buddhist practitioners, whereas the control group only participated in a retreat program at the same temple. Diffusion tensor imaging data were acquired before and after the Templestay program to investigate neural plasticity in the WM. We examined changes in the fractional anisotropy maps.

We observed significant changes in the fractional anisotropy maps at the left superior longitudinal fasciculus, left posterior corona radiata, and splenium of the corpus callosum after 4 days of Templestay. Based on the results of our study, a 4-day meditation period in combination with behavioral-lifestyle modifications facilitates WM myelination in regions important for cognitive functions.

These results provide evidence of very rapid structural remodeling of the WM, suggesting that activity-dependent changes in myelination are induced by Templestay, a relatively understudied self-discipline program that includes behavioral-lifestyle modifications.