Meditation is a family of practices that encompasses a wide array of techniques employing distinctive mental strategies. Recent neuroimaging reviews show that meditation leads to reliable patterns of brain activation and deactivation for four common styles of meditation (focused attention, mantra recitation, open monitoring, and compassion/loving-kindness) and suggestive differences for three others (visualization, sense-withdrawal, and non-dual awareness practices). Some brain areas are recruited consistently across multiple techniques-including insula, pre/supplementary motor cortices, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and frontopolar cortex-but convergence is the exception rather than the rule. The study of meditation can be integrated within a neuroscientific perspective by identifying the brain areas which seem to play an essential role in both, namely the anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, insula and thalamus.
Studies are needed on novel meditation techniques to further advance our understanding of the unique brain signatures of these techniques. Few if any studies have documented the effects of Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM), a mantra based meditation technique. In collaboration with UC San Diego, the Chopra Foundation is launching a pilot study to examine the fMRI signature of experienced practitioners of the PSM technique.