Meditation leads to reduced default mode network activity beyond an active task

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine; Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavioral Neurobiology | Cognitive Neuroscience | Mental and Social Health | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Meditation has been associated with relatively reduced activity in the default mode network, a brain network implicated in self-related thinking and mind wandering. However, previous imaging studies have typically compared meditation to rest, despite other studies having reported differences in brain activation patterns between meditators and controls at rest. Moreover, rest is associated with a range of brain activation patterns across individuals that has only recently begun to be better characterized. Therefore, in this study we compared meditation to another active cognitive task, both to replicate the findings that meditation is associated with relatively reduced default mode network activity and to extend these findings by testing whether default mode activity was reduced during meditation, beyond the typical reductions observed during effortful tasks. In addition, prior studies had used small groups, whereas in the present study we tested these hypotheses in a larger group. The results indicated that meditation is associated with reduced activations in the default mode network, relative to an active task, for meditators as compared to controls. Regions of the default mode network showing a Group x Task interaction included the posterior cingulate/precuneus and anterior cingulate cortex. These findings replicate and extend prior work indicating that the suppression of default mode processing may represent a central neural process in long-term meditation, and they suggest that meditation leads to relatively reduced default mode processing beyond that observed during another active cognitive task.


Meditation, Default mode network, Mind wandering, Self-related thinking

DOI of Published Version



Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2015 Sep;15(3):712-20. doi: 10.3758/s13415-015-0358-3. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cognitive, affective and behavioral neuroscience

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID