Default mode network activation and Transcendental Meditation practice: Focused Attention or Automatic Self-transcending?

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This study used subjective reports and eLORETA analysis to assess to what extent Transcendental Meditation (TM) might involve focused attention—voluntary control of mental content. Eighty-seven TM subjects with one month to five years TM experience participated in this study.

Regression analysis of years TM practice and self-reported transcendental experiences (lack of time, space and body sense) during meditation practice was flat (r = .07). Those practicing Transcendental Meditation for 1 month reported as much transcending as those with 5 years of practice.

The eLORETA comparison of eyes-closed rest/task and TM practice/task identified similar areas of activation: theta and alpha activation during rest and TM in the posterior cingulate and precuneus, part of the default mode network, and beta2 and beta3 activation during the task in anterior cingulate, ventral lateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, part of the central executive network. In addition, eLORETA comparison of rest and TM identified higher beta temporal activation during rest and higher theta orbitofrontal activation during TM.

Thus, it does not seem accurate to include TM practice with meditations in the catgory of Focused Attention, which are characterized by gamma EEG and DMN deactivation. Mixing meditations with different procedures into a single study confounds exploration of meditation effects and confounds application of meditation practices to different subject populations.

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