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Enhanced introspective accuracy and brain grey matter concentration in long-term meditation practitioners Fox, Kieran Charles Ryan

Abstract

The accuracy of subjective reports, especially those involving introspection of one’s own internal processes, remains unclear, and research has demonstrated large individual differences in introspective accuracy. It has been hypothesized that introspective accuracy may be heightened in persons who engage in meditation practices, due to the highly introspective nature of such practices. We undertook a preliminary exploration of this hypothesis, examining introspective accuracy in a cross-section of meditation practitioners (1 - 15,000 hrs experience). Expert meditators showed significantly better introspective accuracy than novices; overall meditation experience also significantly predicted individual introspective accuracy. We then undertook a neuroimaging study (with a partially overlapping sample of meditators) to investigate possible structural brain differences between long-term meditators with high introspective accuracy, and meditation-naïve control subjects. Using magnetic resonance imaging to acquire 3D anatomical brain images, we used voxel-based morphometry to assess grey matter concentration differences between groups, and also as a function of meditation experience. Between-groups results suggest significantly greater concentrations of grey matter in primary somatosensory cortex in long-term meditators vs. controls; among meditators, grey matter concentration was found to increase in several regions key to body-awareness with increasing experience in the body-scanning meditation practice.

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