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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Gaëlle Desbordes, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, 149 Thirteenth St. Suite 2301, Boston, MA 02129, USA. e-mail: desbordes@gmail.com

The authors thank Bruce Rosen, Willa Miller, Sara Lazar, and Britta Hölzel for helpful discussions, Jonathan Polimeni, Thomas Benner, and Vitaly Napadow for help with the fMRI experimental design, Doug Greve and Jonathan Polimeni for helpful suggestions regarding data analysis, Teri Sivilli for valuable help with study coordination, and meditation instructors Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Tom Comstock, and Bryan Price for providing the training to the study participants in the CBCT and MAT groups.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

In the interest of full disclosure, we would like to report that, in the previous 12 months, CLR has consulted for Bristol Myers Squibb and Pamlab, and has prepared and presented disease-state promotional material for Pamlab.


Research Funding:

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (R01AT004698 and R01AT004698-01A1S1, P.I. Raison; ARRA RC1AT005728, P.I. Schwartz).


  • Science & Technology
  • Social Sciences
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Neurosciences
  • Psychology
  • Neurosciences & Neurology
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • attention
  • compassion
  • amygdala
  • emotion
  • fMRI

Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state


Journal Title:

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience


Volume 6, Number NOVEMBER 2012


, Pages 292-292

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


The amygdala has been repeatedly implicated in emotional processing of both positive and negative-valence stimuli. Previous studies suggest that the amygdala response to emotional stimuli is lower when the subject is in a meditative state of mindful-attention, both in beginner meditators after an 8-week meditation intervention and in expert meditators. However, the longitudinal effects of meditation training on amygdala responses have not been reported when participants are in an ordinary, non-meditative state. In this study, we investigated how 8 weeks of training in meditation affects amygdala responses to emotional stimuli in subjects when in a non-meditative state. Healthy adults with no prior meditation experience took part in 8 weeks of either Mindful Attention Training (MAT), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT; a program based on Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation practices), or an active control intervention. Before and after the intervention, participants underwent an fMRI experiment during which they were presented images with positive, negative, and neutral emotional valences from the IAPS database while remaining in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Using a region-of-interest analysis, we found a longitudinal decrease in right amygdala activation in the Mindful Attention group in response to positive images, and in response to images of all valences overall. In the CBCT group, we found a trend increase in right amygdala response to negative images, which was significantly correlated with a decrease in depression score. No effects or trends were observed in the control group. This finding suggests that the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states. This is consistent with the hypothesis that meditation training may induce learning that is not stimulus- or task-specific, but process-specific, and thereby may result in enduring changes in mental function.

Copyright information:

© 2012 Desbordes, Negi, Pace, Wallace, Raison and Schwartz.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

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