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[2020] Enhanced Attentional Network by Short-Term Intensive Meditation

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2020-07-15 11:08
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Kwak, Seoyeon, So-Yeon Kim, Dahye Bae, Wu-Jeong Hwang, Kang Ik Kevin Cho, Kyung-Ok Lim, Hye-Yoon Park, Tae Young Lee, and Jun Soo Kwon. "Enhanced attentional network by short-term intensive meditation." Frontiers in psychology 10 (2020): 3073.
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03073

While recent studies have suggested behavioral effects of short-term meditation on the executive attentional functions, functional changes in the neural correlates of attentional networks after short-term meditation have been unspecified. Here, we conducted a randomized control trial to investigate the effects of a 4-day intensive meditation on the neural correlates of three attentional functions: alerting, orienting, and executive attention. Twenty-three participants in meditation practice and 14 participants in a relaxation retreat group performed attention network test (ANT) during functional magnetic resonance imaging both before and immediately after intervention. The meditation group showed significantly improved behavioral performance in the executive control network in ANT after the intervention. Moreover, neural activities in the executive control network, namely, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), were also significantly increased during the ANT after meditation. Interestingly, neural activity in the right ACC was significantly predicted by behavioral conflict levels in each individual in the meditation group, indicating significant effects of the program on the executive control network. Moreover, brain regions associated with the alerting and orienting networks also showed enhanced activity during the ANT after the meditation. Our study provides novel evidence on the enhancement of the attentional networks at the neural level via short-term meditation. We also suggest that short-term meditation may be beneficial to individuals at high risk of cognitive deficits by improving neural mechanisms of attention.