The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during the complex cognitive task of meditation: a preliminary SPECT study
single photon emission computed tomography
This study measured changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) during the complex cognitive task of meditation using single photon emission computed tomography. Eight experienced Tibetan Buddhist meditators were injected at baseline with 7 mCi HMPAO and scanned 20 min later for 45 min. The subjects then meditated for 1 h at which time they were injected with 25 mCi HMPAO and scanned 20 min later for 30 min. Values were obtained for regions of interest in major brain structures and normalized to whole brain activity. The percentage change between meditation and baseline was compared. Correlations between structures were also determined. Significantly increased rCBF (P<0.05) was observed in the cingulate gyrus, inferior and orbital frontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and thalamus. The change in rCBF in the left DLPFC correlated negatively (P<0.05) with that in the left superior parietal lobe. Increased frontal rCBF may reflect focused concentration and thalamic increases overall increased cortical activity during meditation. The correlation between the DLPFC and the superior parietal lobe may reflect an altered sense of space experienced during meditation. These results suggest a complex rCBF pattern during the task of meditation.