Meditation can exert a profound impact on our mental life, with proficient practitioners often reporting an experience free of boundaries between a separate self and the environment, suggesting an explicit experience of "nondual awareness."What are the neural correlates of such experiences and how do they relate to the idea of nondual awareness itself? In order to unravel the effects that meditation has on the brain's spatial topography, we review functional magnetic resonance imaging brain findings from studies specific to an array of meditation types and meditator experience levels. We also review findings from studies that directly probe the interaction between meditation and the experience of the self. The main results are (i) decreased posterior default mode network (DMN) activity, (ii) increased central executive network (CEN) activity, (iii) decreased connectivity within posterior DMN as well as between posterior and anterior DMN, (iv) increased connectivity within the anterior DMN and CEN, and (v) significantly impacted connectivity between the DMN and CEN (likely a nonlinear phenomenon). Together, these suggest a profound organizational shift of the brain's spatial topography in advanced meditators - we therefore propose a topographic reorganization model of meditation (TRoM). One core component of the TRoM is that the topographic reorganization of DMN and CEN is related to a decrease in the mental-self-processing along with a synchronization with the more nondual layers of self-processing, notably interoceptive and exteroceptive-self-processing. This reorganization of the functionality of both brain and self-processing can result in the explicit experience of nondual awareness. In conclusion, this review provides insight into the profound neural effects of advanced meditation and proposes a result-driven unifying model (TRoM) aimed at identifying the inextricably tied objective (neural) and subjective (experiential) effects of meditation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Clinical Neurology
- Psychiatry and Mental health