Meditation attenuates default-mode activity: A pilot study using ultra-high field 7 Tesla MRI

Saampras Ganesan, Bradford A. Moffat, Nicholas T. Van Dam, Valentina Lorenzetti, Andrew Zalesky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Mapping the neurobiology of meditation has been bolstered by functional MRI (fMRI) research, with advancements in ultra-high field 7 Tesla fMRI further enhancing signal quality and neuroanatomical resolution. Here, we utilize 7 Tesla fMRI to examine the neural substrates of meditation and replicate existing widespread findings, after accounting for relevant physiological confounds. Methods: In this feasibility study, we scanned 10 beginner meditators (N = 10) while they either attended to breathing (focused attention meditation) or engaged in restful thinking (non-focused rest). We also measured and adjusted the fMRI signal for key physiological differences between meditation and rest. Finally, we explored changes in state mindfulness, state anxiety and focused attention attributes for up to 2 weeks following the single fMRI meditation session. Results: Group-level task fMRI analyses revealed significant reductions in activity during meditation relative to rest in default-mode network hubs, i.e., antero-medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, precuneus, as well as visual and thalamic regions. These findings survived stringent statistical corrections for fluctuations in physiological responses which demonstrated significant differences (p < 0.05/n, Bonferroni controlled) between meditation and rest. Compared to baseline, State Mindfulness Scale (SMS) scores were significantly elevated (F(3,9) = 8.16, p < 0.05/n, Bonferroni controlled) following the fMRI meditation session, and were closely maintained at 2-week follow up. Conclusions: This pilot study establishes the feasibility and utility of investigating focused attention meditation using ultra-high field (7 Tesla) fMRI, by supporting widespread evidence that focused attention meditation attenuates default-mode activity responsible for self-referential processing. Future functional neuroimaging studies of meditation should control for physiological confounds and include behavioural assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110766
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • 7 Tesla
  • Beginner meditators
  • Default-mode network
  • Focused attention meditation
  • Functional MRI
  • Pilot study


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