Research: NEWBERG and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 99


NEWBERG and colleagues, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA,, have studied the blood flow in the brain during meditative prayer.


Meditative practices generally require several co-ordinated cognitive activities. In this preliminary study, the cerebral blood flow in Franciscan nuns practising a 'verbal' meditation involving the repetition of a phrase was compared to that in Buddhist meditators using a type of 'visualization' technique.


Experienced practitioners of verbal meditation were injected with small amounts of radioactive tracer into their blood stream, and the blood flow in their brains was imaged by radiographic techniques. Images were taken before and after meditation.


Compared to baseline, verbal meditation showed increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobes, and inferior frontal lobes. There was a strong inverse correlation between the blood flow, change in the prefrontal cortex, and ipsilateral superior parietal lobe.


This study shows the feasibility of assessing different types of meditation with neuro-imaging techniques. It suggests that several co-ordinated cognitive processes occur during meditation.


Newberg A, Pourdehnad M, Alavi A, d'Aquili EG. Cerebral blood flow during meditative prayer: preliminary findings and methodological issues. Perceptual and Motor Skill 97 (2): 625-630, Oct 2003.

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