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FUNCTIONAL MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING OF EMOTIONAL
REACTIVITY AND WISDOM ASSESSMENT OF MEDITATORS AND
MARC F. KURTZMAN
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Marc F. Kurzman
To my parents: thank you for continuing to believe in me
I would like to thank my family, mentors, and colleagues for their continued
support. I thank my mentors, Dr. Shaya Isenberg, Dr. Lou Ritz, and Dr. Gene Thursby,
for their support and encouragement on such an ambitious project. I thank the University
of Florida Center for Spirituality and Health for the support and vision of
interdisciplinary research. I thank the many people who made this work possible: Shaya
Isenberg, Ph.D., Lou Ritz Ph.D., Gene Thursby Ph.D., Monika Ardelt Ph.D., Keith White
Ph.D., Tim Conway Ph.D., Bruce Crosson Ph.D., Keith McGregor B.S., and Katie
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST O F TA BLE S ............................... ............ ... ............ .. vii
L IST O F F IG U R E S .......................................................................... ..... viii
1: IN TR OD U CTION .................. ............................. ....... ...... .............. .
A n Integralist A approach .............................. .. ................ ... ....... .. ... ................ 1
M meditation : A D definition ............................................................... ...................... 5
Previous R research in M editation............................................ ........... ............... 6
W isd om ................... .. ............................................ 9
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging .............................. ........................11
N euroim aging E m option ...................................................................... ..................12
H y p o th e sis ................................................................16
W isd om ............... ....................... ............................................... 16
Functional Im aging................................................. 16
2 : M E T H O D S .............................................................................18
Materials and Methods for Wisdom Assessment .........................18
Participants ........................................................................... ............................. 18
Survey Instrum ents ............................................. .. ...... .......... ..... 19
A naly sis ................................................... ... .. ...... .............. 2 1
Materials and Methods for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging...................22
P articip an ts ................................................................2 2
E xperim mental Stim uli ........... .................................. ................... ............... 22
E x p erim ental D esign ............................................... ......................................22
Im ag e A cqu isition .............................. .... ...................... .. ........ .... ............2 3
Im ag e A n aly sis ..............................................................24
3 : R E S U L T S ..............................................................................2 7
W wisdom Survey s....................................................... .. .... ...... .... ......... 27
M editators versus N on-M editators ............................. ................................... 27
Group Based Meditators versus Non-group Based Meditators and Non-
M e d ita to rs ...............................................................................................................2 9
Threshold M editators .................. ........................... .. ....... .. ........ .... 30
F functional Im aging R results ............................................................ .............................32
All Affect Based Deconvolution T-Tests..........................................................32
All Affect Based Deconvolution Descriptive Analysis....................................32
A effect B ased D econvolution ........................................ .......... ............... 36
4 : D IS C U S S IO N .......................................................................................................... 4 0
W isdom Su rvey s........... ............................................................................... .. ...... .. 4 0
Functional Im aging .............................................................. .... ........43
F utu re R research ................................................................44
C conclusion ...................................................................................................... ....... 44
R E F E R E N C E L IS T ..................................................................................................... 4 6
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................. ................................ ...... ................. 51
LIST OF TABLES
1: Group statistics of meditators and non-meditators in the various portions of the
su rv ey .............................................................................. 2 8
2: Group statistics of group based meditators and non-meditators/non-group based
meditators in the various portions of the survey ...............................................30
3: Group statistics of threshold meditators and non-meditators/non-threshold
meditators in the various portions of the survey. ................ ................ ...............31
4: Individual subject data of volume of left and right frontal activity (tl). ......................34
5: Individual subject data of volume of left and right limbic activity (itl). ...................... 35
6: Individual subject data of volume of left and right activity (itl)................................. 37
7: Individual subject data of volume of left and right frontal activity (itl)........................ 38
8: Individual subject data of volume of left and right occipital activity ([tl) ...................39
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Four quadrant map of Ken Wilber's Integral theory (Wilber, 2000b, p. 1).................3
2: Medial view of brain with limbic lobe and prefrontal limbic cortex (Iverson et al,
2 0 0 0 p 9 8 7 ) ........................................................................ 13
3: Limbic system showing interconnectedness of the structures and arrows indicating
the predominant direction of neural activity (Iverson et al, 2000, p. 987) ..............13
4: The schematic above is an example of a single run. The total run length was 200.6
sec.............. ..................... ............................................. ...... 2 3
5: Above is an example of an affective stimulus block (positive) consisting of five
interchanging pictures from the International Affective Picture System shown
for a duration of 3.4 sec. and with white blank images shown between for 1.7
sec. for a total block time of 27.2 seconds. ................................... ............... 23
6: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting hemispheric activity
according to volume size. The red and blue pie charts above the aggregated
non-meditators give the breakdown of each individual non-meditator subject.
The blue and yellow pie charts above the aggregated meditator data is the
breakdown of each individual meditator subject.................. ..................................33
7: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting frontal lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size. ........................................... ........... 34
8: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting limbic system
hemispheric activity according to volume size. ........................................... ........... 35
9: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting hemispheric activity
according to volume size during presentation of negative affective stimuli............37
10: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting frontal lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size during presentation of negative
affectiv e stim u li .................................................... ................ 3 8
11: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting occipital lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size during presentation of negative
affectiv e stim u li .................................................... ................ 3 9
Abstract of thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Arts
FUNCTIONAL MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING OF EMOTIONAL
REACTIVITY AND WISDOM ASSESSMENT OF MEDITATORS AND
Marc F. Kurtzman
Chair: Shaya Isenberg
Major Department: Religion
The growing interest in meditation has opened the door for new and innovative
research to understand both the psychological and physiological effects of this ancient
practice. Research in the area of meditation is normally interdisciplinary in nature.
Meditation research encompasses many fields of research from religious studies to
psychology to neuroscience. The following study was an interdisciplinary venture that
brought together researchers from the fields of religious studies, psychology, sociology,
The first portion of the study explored the psychological impact of meditation.
Using Monika Ardelt's Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (3D-WS), 42 subjects of
meditators and non-meditators completed the 3D-WS and scores were computed among
the various dimensions that comprise the 3D-WS. Various groupings and statistical
analysis were performed in evaluating the possible differences. The results demonstrated
significant differences in overall wisdom. Among the three dimensions that comprise
overall wisdom, significant differences were found in the reflective dimension but most
significant in the affective domain.
In the second portion of the study, we utilized the technology of functional
magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a pilot study to explore possible differences in
brain activation between meditators and non-meditators in the presence of emotional
stimuli from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Six subjects (3
meditators, 3 non-meditators) underwent an fMRI and a descriptive volume analysis was
used in exploring global and regions of interest differences between the two groups.
Global asymmetries were found in the time-locked all affect based deconvolution. The
occipital region showed asymmetries for all affect based deconvolution. Frontal region
activity showed asymmetries for the time-locked negative affect only deconvolution.
The study shed light on areas of exploration that should be further explored. The
low number of subjects in the fMRI portion of the study inhibited statistically significant
differences from being demonstrated. The implications of the study shed further light on
the many changes that are possible in both mind and brain with the practicing of
There is a widespread interest in the benefits/effects of meditation on the whole
person. The practice of sitting in silence is no longer confined to the realms of "new age"
hocus pocus but have entered the spheres of medicine and mental health. From its roots
in contemplative religious practices, meditation has been transformed and made secular
for those seeking the benefits without the beliefs. The effects of meditation have been
studied from the level of microbiology to the macro level of cognitive neuroscience.
Along the dimensions from micro to macro, there is a general consensus of positive
effects. Technological advances in neuroimaging have enabled a new generation of
studies that are better equipped to image the spatial dynamics of meditation versus the
temporal dynamics of meditation. Recent studies as late as 2003, have suggested that
meditation research should utilize technology that provides greater neuroanatomical
information of brain function, i.e., functional magnetic resonance imaging (Davidson,
Kabat-Zinn et al., 2003). The latest generation of meditation research has focused less on
the changes during meditation and more on the permanent/enduring changes that a
consistent practice brings to the practitioner.
An Integralist Approach
The conceptualization of my research rests upon the Integral System formulated
by Ken Wilber. In his four-quadrant system (discussed below), the left half has correlates
in the right half. In other words the mental has correlates in the physical. These
physical correlates take the form of the body and its underlying systems. As stated by
Ken Wilber, "feelings, mental ideas, and spiritual illuminations all have physical
correlates that can be measured by various scientific means, from EEG machines to blood
chemistry to PET scans to galvanic skin response" (Wilber, 2000a, p 75). However,
Wilber was not the first to correlate the inner landscape of the mind to its physical
William James's classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, is the text of his
Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-02. An early
lecture in the series was titled, "Religion and Neurology." A passage from the lecture
discusses on the issue of brain and mind in the context of religious experiences:
To plead the organic causation of a religious state of mind, then, in refutation of its
claim to possess superior spiritual value, is quite illogical and arbitrary, unless one
has already worked out in advance some psycho-physical theory connecting
spiritual values in general with determinate sorts of physiological change.
Otherwise none of our thoughts and feelings, not even our scientific doctrines, not
even our disbeliefs, could retain any value as revelations of the truth, for every one
of them without exception flows from the state of their possessor's body at the
time... It has no physiological theory of the production of these its favorite states,
by which it may accredit them; and its attempt to discredit the states which it
dislikes, by vaguely associating them with nerves and liver, and connecting them
with names connoting bodily affliction, is altogether illogical and inconsistent.
(James, 1986, p. 33)
This project does not have the task of assigning origin1 to either the body or mind;
rather the focus of the research is on the dynamic relationship between the two domains.
1 This unanswered question is of particular importance in all fields of neurological studies. The question is
whether the mind or body comes first or is a dynamic relationship? If our moment-to-moment experience
is the sum of our neurological activity then what does that say about our existence on the other hand if
mind precedes experience then of what realm does the mind exist in? This is a troubling question that
myself and my fellow colleagues that work within neurological studies have many hours of discussion
over; the issue of the origination of consciousness is perhaps a problem in the question. It might be that the
question of origination in brain or mind is limited in its scope.
This is contrast to some previous research that have provided an unapologetic bias by
claiming that all experiences are brain-based without considering the dynamic
relationship between these two fields (Saver & Rabin, 1997).
The mutual relationship between the mind and body or in other words the
physical and non-physical is the focus of Integral theory. Ken Wilber's Integral
Philosophy fits into a four quadrant domain. Below is a map of the four quadrant system.
Upper Left Upper Righr
Lnrenror-Indivdual Lxrcrirz-lindn- dual
I (nrcnric.nal tBichavoral)
visicn-logic 12 1 IT 1/ SF
Ioru Li a i I 1 1\ SF2
conerlp 10 IC,. F1
II. A.Lv 9 / ..nipkx .nocc-n*..
'vrmbcl 8 neccorrev (cnun. I.-.I
cmor..on l si
inpulsi' F 6 b r -pclian hrjin snrern
p ^cns no.nn noji 13,,zd
Tnc ruur nior C -rcr rr- nl ric rn
S3 cukar occs
arrnrasbllera .1 pr,.1-< .r-,aresi
Si nAlc; Aes
pr ehen tion arorn
'nh si-, l- -l.,.. i
picromaic ] J7| rei.-
interp thPis i e. _rm. istnoun es
rabdc, \\\ f g l gLi ri li.n i. llU C wn2 rrtS1 it
nr 4-or-Coltc- vivr h d erior-Cn oll Idtc e
r.t F n c lrn C g roup-Foi mru ll
lllJK^lx r ln ~ LSO-,lllll
To interpret this elaborate map, it is crucial to understand that Wilber's system is ap
construction on the continuum from simple to complex. In this pattern, he states that in
trnmr~i~ic 12 *'WE ITS indit --jl 12 Iplanetaff
L Lower Lrh Inuicr Righr
rCulrurolIi k'iocia3 P
Figure 1. Four quadrant map of Ken Wilber's Integral theory (Wilber, 2000b, p. 1).
To interpret this elaborate map, it is crucial to understand that Wilber's system is a
construction on the continuum from simple to complex. In this pattern, he states that in
life there are divisions of singular-plural, interior-exterior, and mind-body or spirit-
matter. In referring to the Four Quadrant map I will use the abbreviations UR (upper
right), UL (upper left), LR (lower right), and LL (lower left). The UR on the map says
"IT", the "it" of this map is all matter ranging from atoms to complex SF32 humans. The
LR says "ITS" and the "its" is the collective matter or habitat in which the "its" subsist
in. The UL says "I" and this quadrant deals with the interior "I" or mind. The LL is the
"We" and this quadrant deals with the collective interior "we" or simply put the
When viewing the map, it is helpful to divide the system before explaining the it
as a whole. The right side deals with the exterior or matter and the left side deals with the
interior or mind. A further division is that the top half of the system deals with the
singular and the bottom half deals with the plural. Starting with UR and then proceeding
clockwise one can correlate all quadrants. Starting from level six appears the term neural
cord in UR, in LR we see that level six corresponds to societies with divisions of labor, in
UL six corresponds to perception, and in LL one corresponds to locomotive. So, a living
creature having a neural cord has a habitat within a society with divisions of labor, this
creature's interior singular is perception meaning its nervous system has the ability to
perceive the universe, and its worldview is locomotive.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the interactive relationship between the
left and right halves of the integral system. The assessment of the wisdom of an
individual evaluates the UL and LL. The wisdom of an individual pertains to both the
UL and LL because the 3D-WS assesses both the individual's psyche as well as
worldview. The assessment of the neurological reactivity of subjects to affective pictures
assesses the UR. The practice of meditation is widely understood as a transformational
2 Terms like SF3 humans or other terms that will be mentioned are terms that Wilber has defined in part
with his Integral System. Rather than spend lots of time on explaining all of the various levels it is
important to grasp from this short explanation that there are various levels and these levels have names
given by Wilber.
process. This study aims to evaluate these transformations of both dimensions of an
individual. Meditation involves the concentration of both body and mind which has
guided this study. Meditation, for the purpose of this study, is sedentary and a stillness of
the body must be maintained. These points of concentration are hypothesized to have
changes on both physical and nonphysical dimensions.
Meditation: A Definition
What exactly is meditation? Some have argued that meditation is a kind of
altered state of consciousness (Tart, 1969). Various definitions of meditation arise
because of the various forms of meditation. Epstein and Lieff3 in their article in
Transformations of Consciousness defined meditation more clinically:
Meditation may be conceptualized as a process of attentional restructuring wherein
the mind can be trained both in concentration, the ability to rest undisturbed on a
single object, and in mindfulness, the ability to observe its own moment-to-moment
nature, to pay attention undistractedly to a series of changing objects. This
perceptual retraining allows a finely honed investigation of the rapidly changing
self-concepts that perpetuate the sense of self. (Epstein & Lieff, 1986: 58)
Researchers have shown that "retraining" or development of mindfulness via the
practice of meditation has been shown by researchers to change the body, psyche, and
even society (Davidson, Kabat-Zinn et al, 2003; Kabat-Zinn, Miller et al, 1995; Gilliani,
Smith et al, 2001; ). Benson et al, 1990; Hagelin et al, 1999).
From a researcher's perspective a specific research protocol to define meditation
is difficult to establish. Researchers, including Jon Kabat-Zinn, have formulated a
secularized version of meditation that is taught under the name of "mindfulness" (Kabat-
Zinn, 1990). Recent literature attempts to establish criteria for the classification of
3 The background and personal practice of these two physicians is in Vipassana which is evident in their
definition of meditation. Although I feel their definition highlights the common themes of meditation, the
vipassana tradition tends to focus on bare insight and awareness without the usage of visualizations or
chanting just simply being and breathing.
meditation in research (Cardoso, Souza et al, 2004). Cardoso and Souza developed a
five-point criterion for defining meditation in health research. They include a specified
technique, body relaxation, "logic relaxation", self-induction, and a employment of a
self-focus skill (Cardoso, Souza et al, 2004). By Cardoso's own admission this
operational definition will be unable to capture all of the intricacies of various practices
of meditation. The current study's interdisciplinary staff is an asset to properly
understand and classify various forms of meditation in the sample population. The
researchers for previous meditation studies have not had an interdisciplinary group of
researchers to aid in the evaluation of meditation as a practice. Thus previous studies on
meditation lacked expertise on various meditative traditions. The assemblage of the
project staff for this research study draws upon the fields of sociology, religious studies,
and neuroscience. This multidisciplinary staff will benefit the research in identifying
possible latent variables such as the nature of the individuals practice or theory behind the
practice. These seemingly trivial aspects are crucial in isolating and understanding the
Previous Research in Meditation
The popularity of meditation and Eastern religions has been steadily increasing in
Western culture. Eastern philosophy and practices, from yoga to meditation, have
migrated to the West. Initially the benefits of meditation were known anecdotally. From
the ability to levitate to a life with reduced stress, the claims of meditation have attracted
a large population. Today, however, the benefits of meditation have science to support
them. Scientific research on meditation has been published in popular media such as
Time magazines profile of "The Science of Meditation: New Age mumbo jumbo? Not for
millions of Americans who meditate for health and well-being. Here's how it works"
(Stein, 2004). The benefit of meditation concluded in scientific research has made its
practice more widespread. No longer relegated to the spheres of religious/spiritual
practices, meditation is now broadly taught in the field of medicine.
One of the earliest research studies on meditation came from Japan. It was an
electroencephalographic study of Zen meditators (Kasamatsu & Hirai, 1966). Since that
time many researchers have made careers from meditation research most notably Richard
Davidson Ph.D., Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D., and Herbert Benson M.D. An article from
Science on Benson characterized him aptly as the "mind-body maverick" (Roush, 1997).
Benson is most famous for his best-selling work on the relaxation response. The
relaxation response an original term coined by Benson that describes physiological
alterations during a state of relaxation (Roush, 1997). As a result of his research, Benson
has come to advocate meditation practice. In one of his studies on meditation he
examined Tibetan Buddhist monks, regarded as advanced meditators, and found that they
were able to alter their metabolism and more specifically decrease it (Benson et al, 1990).
This study and the majority of previous studies of meditation utilize
electroencephalogram4 (EEG). In this EEG study, Benson found the alteration in
metabolism was not one-way. Benson found metabolism could be raised 61% from
baseline and lowered to 64% from baseline depending upon the particular meditation
employed (Benson et al, 1990). To differentiate normal relaxation versus meditation,
Solberg studied hemodynamic changes during long meditations in contrast to non-
meditators resting in a seated position for the same length of time (Solberg et al, 2004).
They found that during the first hour heart-rate declined more in meditators than non-
4 It should be stated that many advancements have occurred in EEG and are utilized widely in current
meditators/controls and during the second hour HR declined even further in meditators
(Solberg et al, 2004). This study provided evidence that simply sitting in a rested
position with lack of focus i.e. relaxing does not produce the same hemodynamic changes
as seen in meditation.
Davidson and Kabat-Zinn recently concluded that "mindfulness meditation"
produced demonstrable effects on brain and immune function (Davidson, Kabat-Zinn et
al., 2003). Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that is secular in nature that
was developed by Kabat-Zinn. In this same study Davidson and Kabat-Zinn also
discovered, via usage of EEG and Electrooculography (EOG) that increases in left-side
anterior activation followed the practice of mindfulness. Left-side anterior activation is a
pattern associated with positive affect. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that
combines yoga, breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and Zen psychology
(Gillani & Smith, 2001). In another study, Kabat-Zinn and his research team performed a
3 year follow-up on 22 patients who all had a DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders) diagnosed anxiety disorder and who were all taught the mindfulness
program (Kabat-Zinn, Miller, & Fletcher, 1995). Kabat-Zinn found that the continuing
practice led to a decrease in anxiety5 (Kabat-Zinn, Miller, & Fletcher, 1995). The
highlight of this article is the authors' description of the transformational mindset that
this meditation supports. "They encourage the practitioner to adopt a more dispassionate,
witness-like observing and self-reporting of the moment by moment unfolding of one's
experience" (Kabat-Zinn, Miller, & Fletcher, 1995, p. 197). The idea of a detachment
from the reactivity to life is a reinforcing attitude within the practice of many forms of
5 Gilliani and Smith came to an identical conclusion regarding a substantial decrease in anxiety levels but the
form of meditation utilized was purely based on the Zen Buddhist tradition (Gillani & Smith, 2001)
meditation. Detachment in the previous context is not a form of uncompassionate
withdrawal but a type of compassionate awareness. Goleman supports this idea when he
states, meditatorss were able to roll with life's punches, handling daily stresses well and
suffering fewer consequences from them" (Goleman, 1988 p. 163).
A recent meta-analysis was performed to evaluate mindfulness-based stress
reduction (MBSR) in clinical treatment (Grossman et al., 2004). Grossman discussed the
characteristics of mindfulness which entail dispassionate, non-evaluative and sustained
moment-to-moment awareness (Grossman et al., 2004). The meta-analysis performed
was limited by the number of investigations to date which evaluate MBSR. The studies
they investigated utilized MBSR for a wide array of ailments such as Fibromyalgia,
cancer, depression, chronic pain, and a host of other physical and psychological
pathologies. Both controlled and observational studies provided a statistically significant
conclusion (p < .0001) that MBSR helps a wide population to manage a host of clinical
and non-clinical problems (Grossman et al., 2004).
From physiological/neurological changes to clinical applications, meditation
spans the spectrum of research. Studies of physiological effects of meditation have
tended to focus upon the changes either during or post meditation (Lutz et al., 2004;
Davidson, Kabat-Zinn et al., 2003; Solberg et al., 2004; Takahashi et al., 2004). Few
studies have studied the enduring changes in moment-to-moment awareness of affective
stimuli of long term meditators.
In the article "Meditation: Royal Road to the Transpersonal", Walsh and Vaughan
discuss various qualities cultivated by the "technology of transcendence" i.e. meditation
(Walsh & Vaughan, 1993, p. 51). One such quality is wisdom: "Whereas knowledge is
something we have, wisdom is something we become. Developing it requires self-
transformation" (Walsh & Vaughan, 1993, p. 51). From a religious point of view, Sant
Rajinder Singh discusses the cultivation of wisdom and the difference between what he
designates as the "soul's wisdom" from knowledge, "the mind analyzes through the
subjective eyes of the ego, while the soul views everything through the clear glass of
truth" (Singh, 1999, p. 19). Sant Rajinder Singh discusses the difference within the
context of elaborating on the qualities attained through the practice of meditation. The
terms wisdom and meditation are coupled together often but the question arises, how
does one perform research to assess wisdom?
Monika Ardelt, Ph.D., has constructed assessment surveys and specific definitions
for defining what constitutes wisdom. She defines wisdom as a combination of
cognitive, affective, and reflective dimensions (3D-WS, Ardelt, 2003). For Ardelt,
wisdom is a experiential rather than intellectual knowledge (Ardelt, 2004). Intellectual
and wisdom-related knowledge share a common theme of the search for truth (Ardelt,
2000). The opposition of quantitative and qualitative underscores the major differences
between intellectual and wisdom-related knowledge (Ardelt, 2000). Not only do these
two forms of knowledge differ in their goals but they are brought about by different
methods. Intellectual knowledge is obtained from scientific, theoretical, abstract or
detached approaches but while wisdom-related knowledge is inherently spiritual in nature
(Ardelt, 2000). The underlying themes to these two approaches are objectivity and
subjectivity which are not the same as impersonal vs. personal. Intellectual knowledge is
impersonal whereas wisdom-related knowledge is deeply personal (Ardelt, 2000). The
personal nature of wisdom-related knowledge is consistent with Ardelt's earlier argument
that wisdom is experientially based.
Earlier I noted that Ardelt defines wisdom along three dimensions. The cognitive
dimension pertains to an individual's ability to understand the significance and deeper
meaning of life's events (Ardelt, 2003). Ardelt considers the reflective dimension a
prerequisite for the development of the cognitive dimension (Ardelt, 2003), for an
individual must have a reality free from distortions in order to come to a deeper
understanding of phenomena (Ardelt, 2003). For Ardelt, the reflective component takes
into consideration the many perspectives of life's events. The idea of a multi-
perspectival viewpoint is akin to Wilber's notion of 'aperspectival' (Wilber, 2000a). The
affective dimension is characterized by a sense of sympathy or acts of kindness towards
others (Ardelt, 2003). In measuring wisdom, Ardelt has developed a three-dimensional
wisdom scale (3D-WS) that assesses wisdom along the aforementioned dimensions. The
3D-WS has been utilized and tested for reliability and validity.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
In Keith White's talk titled "MR Physics in 20 Minutes: A talk from Hell" he
stated, "In the MRI scanner a very large coil cooled with liquid helium has a very strong
electric current flowing continuously. This makes the strong (3 Tesla) unchanging
magnetic field called Bo. Protons in this strong field: (a) become more magnetic, and (b)
become lined up with Bo". Dr. White was referring to the protons in the hydrogen atoms
which is found throughout the body since each water molecule is composed of 2
hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. Since water is the most abundant substrate in tissues
its signal is dominant in the information content of images (Ogawa et al., 1990). Once
these hydrogen nuclei (protons) align with the magnetic field of the scanner a RF (radio
frequency) coil sends a pulse of energy to knock the molecules out of alignment, to a
"flip angle" with respect to Bo. The protons, return back to alignment by releasing
energy, sending radio waves to the transceiver. The RF coil in the scanner is what is
known as a transceiver since it is both able to transmit a signal (i.e. the pulse that knocks
the protons to their flip angle) and to receive the signal of the protons returning back to
alignment with Bo. The basic four steps that occur while the subject is in the scanner are
to (1) transmit radio waves into a subject, (2) to turn off radio wave transmitter, (3) to
receive radio waves re-transmitted by subject, and (4) to store measured radio wave data
Functional MRI operates under the same physics as previously explained. Brain
activity is measured by the principal of blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD)
contrast (Ogawa et al., 1990). There is a three-step relationship to the BOLD sequence.
An increase in neural activity descreases blood oxygen in the site of neural activity. A
change in magnetization occurs when blood exchanges oxygen with neural tissue and
oxyhemoglobin becomes deoxyhemoglobin. The ration of deoxyhemoglobin to
oxyhemoglobin alters the signal from water molecules surrounding a blood vessel,
resulting in blood oxygenation level-dependent contrast. The genius of BOLD contrast is
its dependency on blood oxygenation which is in turn dependent upon physiological
events that change the oxy/deoxyhemoglobin ratio (Ogawa et al., 1990).
Emotion itself is a non-physical entity that is unable to be captured but the
correlates of neural activity to various emotional states have been extensively studied and
isolated. The founder of Neuropsychology, Paul Broca, was the first to identify a region
of the brain that was later theorized by James Papez to be the cortical structures for
emotion known as the limbic lobe (Iverson et al., 2000). The limbic lobe is ring-like in
shape and consists of phylogenetically primitive cortex, in relation to the neocortex,
around the brain stem (Iverson et al., 2000).
ForniX Cingulate gyrus
Frontal lobe. _/
Amygdala a Parahippocampal gyrus
Figure 2: Medial view of brain with limbic lobe and prefrontal limbic cortex (Iverson et
al., 2000, p. 987).
Ci u Anterior thalamic nuclei
Stria termjna -'.*:"
Fornix- ----- .- ?|
Mamnijlothal&r .1 -A-tr.
Mammil ary i
Figure 3: Limbic system showing interconnectedness of the structures and arrows
indicating the predominant direction of neural activity (Iverson et al., 2000, p.
The limbic lobe is comprised of the cingulate gyms, parahippocampal gyrus, and
the hippocampal formation (Iverson et al., 2000). Later, Paul MacLean developed the
concept of the limbic system which added the structures of the hypothalamus, septal area,
nucleus accumbens, neocortical regions such as the orbitofrontal cortex, and the most
popular structure to examine, the amygdala (Iverson et al., 2000). In neuroimaging the
anatomy of emotion, further areas of interest include areas common to neuroimaging
studies include the anterior cingulate, supplementary motor cortex, medial prefrontal
cortex, mid- and posterior cingulate, temporal cortex (including hippocampus), parietal
and occipital lobes, insular cortex, basal forebrain, amygdala, and brainstem (Wager et
al., 2003). Studies utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging tend to focus on
global activation rather than focusing on various regions of interest (ROI's), e.g. the
amygdala. The rationale for focusing solely upon the amygdala and foregoing other areas
of the limbic system is the difficulty of imaging the amygdala (Chen et al., 2003). T2*-
weighted gradient-echo echo-planar imaging (EPI) sequences are commonly used in
fMRI studies because of the inherent sensitivity to BOLD contrast (Chen et al., 2003). A
problem arises with the location of the amygdala. T2*-weighted imaging is sensitive to
the static field gradient formed by the tissue-air susceptibility difference (Chen et al.,
2003). With this stated, the amygdala is in a region of the brain that has a field of
inhomogeneity (Chen et al., 2003). The problems arising with the location of the
amygdala force many researchers to image only a portion of the brain rather than a
whole-brain acquisition for optimal sensitivity.
Neuroimaging studies of emotion vary from the technology utilized (i.e. PET,
fMRI, etc) to tasks and/or stimuli utilized to induce emotion in subjects. Various long-
standing theories underlie many emotion studies. One of the oldest theories is that
emotion has overall right-hemisphere dominance (Wager et al., 2003). More recent
theories of emotion posit that both hemispheres are involved in emotional processing but
each hemisphere has dominance over particular types of emotion (Lee et al., 2004).
Other theories postulate that lateralization and anatomy of emotion is contingent upon
gender (Wager et al., 2003).
As previously mentioned, studies of emotion occasionally employ tasks that
present a stimulus or instruct subjects to be passive during stimulation (Shapira et al.,
2003; Lang & Bradley et al., 1998; Klein et al., 2003; Sabatinelli et al., 2004; Lee et al.,
2004). Emotional stimuli tend to vary across populations and therefore for accurate
classification of valence and arousal of stimuli databases of emotional stimuli have been
tested and made available to researchers. Valence and arousal are two of three
dimensions that the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) measures the stimuli.
Affective valence ranges from pleasant to unpleasant and measurement of its arousal that
ranges from calm to excited (CSEA-NIMH, 1999). One very popular database is the
International Affective Picture System6 (IAPS) (CSEA-NIMH, 1999). IAPS was
developed to provide a database of normative emotional stimuli for experimentation
(Lang, Bradley, Cuthbert, 2001).
6 The NIMH Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention have developed other normative sets of stimuli
for non-visual research such as the International Affective Digitized Sounds (IADS) and Affective Lexicon
of English Words (ANEW).
Meditation is known as a transformational process and with Wilber's Integral
System such transformations should be able to be captured by technology or by internal
inventory like the 3D-WS. With the behavioral analysis meditators should show
significant differences in affective and reflective dimensions of the 3D-WS. The
cognitive dimension is more difficult to predict. Since the cognitive dimension is
evaluating a quest for deeper understanding of the phenomena of life, the subjects chosen
for this study may show insignificant differences in this dimension due to the spiritually
liberal nature of the groups chosen for this study. Overall wisdom should be higher in
meditators than non-meditators. Meditation is often a lifetime practice and therefore the
consistent practice of meditation should produce significant differences in the purpose in
life dimension. Since most meditators recruited for this study belong to a group the
shared spiritual/religious activities assessment should be higher than non-meditators.
Mastery should be higher in meditators. The therapeutic nature of meditation should aid
in meditators having less psychological ills and therefore meditators should score lower
on the depressive symptoms.
The lack of understanding of neurological reactions in meditators as opposed to
the same reactions in a non-meditator has not been studied and therefore specific regions
of difference are difficult to hypothesize. Overall it is expected that meditators should
have a lower volume activity on a global level and perhaps asymmetries both globally
and in regions of interest, in response to emotionally charged visual stimuli. Perhaps
meditation allows for the right hemisphere dominance of emotion to be less defined and a
mutual sharing of emotion among the hemispheres could be the result.
Materials and Methods for Wisdom Assessment
Forty-two (18 men, 24 women) volunteers participated (age 19-78 years, M = 46.4
years, SD = 15.66 years; education 10-21 years, M = 16.74 years, SD = 2.43 years).
Nineteen meditation subjects were recruited from two different local religious groups and
8 non-meditation subjects were gathered from a local religious group. Mediation groups
were recruited from those familiar with the project staff and non-meditation groups were
chosen from two local liberal natured groups. I chose non-fundamentalist groups for the
study so as to minimize the possible effect of comparing groups that are philosophically
opposite in their cultural open-mindedness. The remaining participants were recruited
acquaintances of the project staff. The group-based versus non-group based subjects
were recruited to discriminate the variable of group effect. Potential subjects were
excluded from the study if they reported a history of neurological disease, major
psychiatric disturbance, or substance abuse. Two subjects requested not to be included in
the final pool of subjects selected to undergo the fMRI portion of the study. Potential
risks were explained at each phase of the study, and informed consent was obtained from
participants according to institutional guidelines established by the Health Science Center
Institutional Review Board at the University of Florida.
Meditation and non-meditation subjects both completed a survey comprised of 119
questions. Responses were coded as a numerical value e.g. 1-5. Wisdom was measured
by the Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (Ardelt, 2003). In the 3D-WS, wisdom is
treated as a latent variable comprised of cognitive, reflective, and affective dimensions
(Ardelt, 2003). The cognitive dimension is evaluated by items that assess an
understanding of life or the desire to know the truth (3D-WS, Ardelt, 2003). An example
of the cognitive component is the following: "It is better not to know too much about
things that cannot be changed" with answers ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5
(strongly disagree). The reflective dimension assesses an individual's capability to view
events from various perspectives and to avoid layering such events with subjectivity and
projections. A sample item from the reflective dimension is the following: "When I look
back on what has happened to me, I can't help feeling resentful" with answers ranging
from 1 (definitely true of myself) to 5 (not true of myself). The third dimension of
wisdom is the affective component, it assesses altruistic emotions and behavior along
with the absence of its opposite emotions and behaviors towards other sentient beings. A
sample item from this dimension is: "Sometimes I feel a real compassion for everyone"
with answers ranging from 1 (definitely true of myself) to 5 (not true of myself). The
wisdom score was derived by averaging the means of the cognitive, affective, and
reflective dimensions. Internal consistency of the items measuring the cognitive,
reflective, and affective dimensions of the 3D-WS were measured using Cronbach's
alpha. The cognitive, reflective, and affective dimensions had respective alpha levels of
.72, .74, and .77; with overall wisdom having an alpha level of .76.
Along with wisdom and its components, other areas were evaluated. Mastery was
assessed by Pearlin and Schooler's (1978) Mastery Scale (Ardelt, 2003). The Mastery
Scale consists of seven statements such as "Sometimes I feel that I'm being pushed
around in life" with answers ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree).
Cronbach's alpha for the Mastery Scale was .56. Depression was another measurement
taken and was assessed by the CES-D (Radloff 1977). The depression scale evaluated a
list of emotions possibly felt in the past week of taking the survey such as "I did not feel
like eating; my appetite was poor" with answers ranging from 1 (less than 1 day) to 4 (5-
7 days). Cronbach's alpha for the CES-D was .86. Purpose in life was measured by
Crumbaugh and Maholick's (1964) Purpose in Life Test. The PIL assesses an individuals
positive and negative emotions towards life e.g. "My personal existence often seems
meaningless and without purpose" with answers ranging from 1 (definitely true of
myself) to 5 (not true of myself). Cronbach's alpha for PIL was .76. Subjective health
was measured by adapted of items from the OARS Multidimensional Functional
Assessment Questionnaire (Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development
1975), the National Survey of the Aged (Shanas 1962, 1982), and the Americans'
Changing Lives Questionnaire, Wave I (House 1994). A sample question from the
subjective health section is "How would you rate your overall health at the present time?"
with answers ranging from 1 (excellent) to 5 (very bad). Cronbach's alpha for the
subjective health questions was .61. Gender was surveyed with an allowable range of
either 1 (female) or 2 (male). Age was measured by having subjects list their date of
birth. Race was assessed with a range of 1 (white/European) to 6 (other).
Religious/spiritual activities was assessed by how often the subject participated in
spiritual/religious activities with at least one other person in the past month; subjects had
a range of 1 (more than 15 times) to 5 (0 times).
Meditation experience and practice was assessed by several questions. The first
question inquired about the frequency of meditation in a typical week ranging from 1
(never) to 6 (once a day or more). If this question was answered "never" then
respondents did not proceed to further questions. The second question inquired about the
length of time the person has been practicing meditation with 1 (less than 1 year) to 4
(more than 10 years). The third question asked about the length of time the person
spends on a single meditation session from 1 (less than fifteen minutes) to 4 (more than
an hour). The question was phrased "meditating in one sitting" assuming that the
individual practiced a sedentary form of meditation. This was important in order to
distinguish meditation from yoga or other forms of meditation-in-motion. Meditation-in-
motion or yoga might cloud the results because it would be difficult to assess whether the
act of meditation or physical activity is the primary factor. The final open-ended
questions asked the subject to name and describe the type of meditation they practice.
Again, this was very useful information in distinguishing meditation from forms of
All statistical analysis performed used SPSS 12.0 for Windows. Correlation
analyses and t-tests were performed to assess differences in wisdom and other variables
between those who meditate against those who do not, those who meditate in a group
against those who meditate alone and non-meditators, and those who meditated at least
60-90 minutes per week against non-meditators and those who meditate less than 60
minutes a week.
Materials and Methods for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Six subjects (3 men, 3 women) were chosen to participate in the fMRI portion of
the study. Three meditators and three non-meditators were selected (Meditators: 2
women, 1 man, ages 25-50, M = 40.7, SD = 13.7; education 17-18 years, M = 17.7, SD =
.58) (Non-meditators: 2 women, 1 man, ages 20-68, M = 36.3, SD = 27.4; education 14-
16 years, M = 15.3, SD = 1.15). The six participants were not matched in education due
to the insignificance of education on affective perception. Potential risks and a second
informed consent as well as a full MRI safety screening were conducted according to the
institutional guidelines established by the Health Center Institutional Review Board at the
University of Florida.
Experimental stimuli consisted of 75 pictures from the International Affective
Picture System were presented across five runs (CSEA-NIMH, 1999). Twenty-five
pictures from each affective domain were presented in an affective block design; negative
(valence: 1-3) M = 2.41, positive (valence: 7-9) M = 7.72, and neutral (valence 4-6) M =
During each of five functional imaging runs, three different affective blocks from
each affective domain (see below for design of an affective block) were presented with
inter-stimulus-intervals (ISI) of 28.9, 34, and 39.1 sec. were distributed within runs (see
below for layout of a single run) in a pseudorandomized order. Inter-stimulus-intervals
were presentations of a white blank screen. Participants were instructed to view the
stimuli presented on the screen passively.
17 27.2 28.9 27.2 39.1 27.2 34 sec.
Figure 4: The schematic above is an example of a single run. The total run length was
Figure 5: Above is an example of an affective stimulus block (positive) consisting of five
interchanging pictures from the International Affective Picture System shown
for a duration of 3.4 sec. and with white blank images shown between for 1.7
sec. for a total block time of 27.2 seconds.
Each experimental run consisted of three 27.2-sec affective blocks during which 16
images were collected. The inter-stimulus-interval baseline state was a blank white
screen. The ISI varied in lengths of 28.9, 34, or 39.1 sec (corresponding to 17, 20, and 23
images respectively). To allow for a homogenous magnetic field a 17 sec period was
placed at the beginning of each functional run in which 8 images were collected and
subsequently discarded. The length of the baseline periods, i.e. ISI, was varied
pseudorandomly to mitigate low-frequency periodic and quasiperiodic physiological
artifacts. Each length of the ISI was used once during each run. For each functional
imaging run, there were three blocks consisting of five pictures totaling fifteen IAPS
pictures per run. Thus, for each functional imaging run, there were 8 disdaq1 images, 3
affective blocks of 16 images each, and three baseline cycles consisting of 17, 20, and 23
images for a total of 118 images collected per functional run. By randomizing and
having unequal lengths of the baseline condition, the onsets of the affective blocks were
periodic. The length of each affective block did not vary so that a single hemodynamic
response could be modeled for each block using the deconvolution technique.
Whole brain imaging was performed on a 3.0-T Siemens Allegra scanner. The
head was aligned such that the interhemispheric fissure was within 1 of vertical. Before
functional image acquisition, structural images were acquired for 124 1.3 mm thick
sagittal slices, using a T1-weighted volume acquisition (TE = 2000 msec, FA = 8 NEX
= 1, FOV = 240 mm, matrix size = 256 x 192. For functional imaging sequences, 32
slices (4.5 mm) were acquired in a sagittal orientation (matrix size = 64x64). Images
were obtained using a gradient-echo EPI (echo-planar imaging) sequence using the
following parameters: TE = 25 msec, TR = 1700 msec, FA = 700, FOV = 240 mm.
Functional images were analyzed and overlaid onto anatomic images with
Analysis of Functional Neuroimages (AFNI) software (Cox, 1996). To lessen the effects
1 Disdaq images are those images removed/discarded prior to full processing of functional datasets.
of head motion, the time series were spatially registered in 3-D space to the coordinates
of the first functional run which immediately followed the anatomical scan. Images were
visually inspected for artifacts. For each dataset, the mean slice signal intensities were
normalized to the grand mean of slice intensity across all functional runs. Voxels where
the standard deviation of the signal change exceeded 8% of the mean signal were set to
zero to decrease large vessel effects and residual motion artifact.
The first eight images were dropped from each functional run to allow for a
homogenous magnetic field. Dropping the eight images from each run brought a total of
112 images per run with five functional runs. The runs were concatenated in
chronological order into a single time series of 560 images for each of the 32 functional
image slices. After concatenation of the time series, the time series was deconvolved
from the 560-image time series on a voxel-by-voxel basis. Each hemodynamic response
(HDR) was modeled using a maxlag of 25 TR periods following the onset of the first
picture in an affective block. The long maxlag of 25 TR was used in order to capture the
entire HDR from its onset to its return to baseline. For each voxel, a single HDR was
deconvolved for all affective blocks and separately for positive, negative, and neutral
Anatomic and functional images were interpolated to volumes with 1-mm3 voxels,
coregistered, and converted to the stereotaxic coordinate space of Talairach and
Tournoux (Talairach & Tournoux, 1988) using AFNI. In order to discriminate between
baseline and affective stimulus a separate deconvolution was performed following the
onset of baseline periods. Five deconvolutions were carried out for each subject's fMRI
data: (1) time locked to positive affect blocks only, (2) time-locked to negative affect
blocks only, (3) time-locked to neutral affect blocks only, (4) time-locked to all affect
blocks, and (5) time-locked to baseline. Following the baseline-deconvolution an R2
voxel-wise distribution dump file was created for time-locked to negative affect blocks
only, time-locked all affect block and time-locked to baseline deconvolution datasets.
The R2 distributions for each subject were compared using the Kolmogorov-Smimoff test
to detect significant differences between time-locked negative affect blocks only to time-
locked to baseline as well as time-locked all affect blocks to time-locked baseline.
Further KS tests of the negative or neutral time-locked datasets to the time-locked
baseline condition were not performed due to lack of significant activity in either
deconvolution datasets. Following the KS test, a whole-brain cluster analyses was
performed on each subject for all affective blocks as well as positive, negative, and
neutral deconvolution datasets. Cluster reports had thresholds of 0.16 R2 and volume
threshold of 100 il. The low number of subjects prohibited an ANOVA based testing.
Clusters were localized and a descriptive ROI analysis was performed on group data.
Groups were contrasted between meditators and non-meditators. ROI t-tests were
performed on a few regions.
Meditators versus Non-Meditators
T-tests were performed to detect significant differences between meditators and
non-meditators with regard to wisdom, mastery, purpose in life, depression, subjective
health, education, age, and religious activities. In testing differences between meditators
and non-meditators, no threshold for the amount of time an individual practices was
applied. Therefore meditators were classified according to those who answered "about
once a week" to the question "in a typical week, how often do you practice meditation?"
From all the participants who took the survey, 13 were classified as non-meditators and
29 meditators according to their response to this question. No significant differences in
age, gender or education were found.
Meditators had a significantly higher score than non-meditators on wisdom (t = -
2.932; p = .006). In analyzing the components of the wisdom survey, the two groups did
not significantly differ in the cognitive dimension but did differ in the reflective domain
(t = -2.619; p = .0012). An even greater difference was discovered in the affective
domain (t = -3.898; p = .000), and insignificant differences were found in the cognitive
dimension (t = -0.610; p = .546). In both the reflective and affective domains, the
meditators had a higher mean score than non-meditators. No significant differences were
found in self-mastery (t = -1.628; p = 0.111) but meditators also had a significantly
higher purpose in life score (t = -5.038; p = .000), a higher subjective health rating (t = -
2.029; p = .049), and fewer depressive symptoms (t = 1.81; p = .08). Meditators scored
higher in the religious activities component (t = -1.915; p = .063). The meditators and
non-meditators were found to have no significant difference in the demographic statistics
of education (t = 0.876; p = 0.386), gender (t = 0.447; p = 0.347), age (t = 0.772; p =
0.225), and race (t = 0.090; p = 0.426).
Table 1: Group statistics of meditators and non-meditators in the various portions of the
Group Statistics Meditators vs Non-Meditators
meditate N Mean Deviation Std Error Mean
Cognitive No 13 39835 047573 013194
29 40665 037503 006964
Reflective No 13 38654 0 43105 011955
Yes 29 42040 036704 006816
Affective No 13 34320 047371 013138
Yes 29 39708 038594 007167
Wisdom No 13 37603 039987 011090
Yes 29 40804 029040 005393
Mastery No 13 37473 062312 017282
Yes 29 40296 046820 008694
Purpose in Life No 13 36667 083887 023266
Yes 29 46322 041159 007643
Depression No 13 1 4692 045210 012539
Yes 29 12569 029813 005536
Subj Health No 13 37308 069568 019295
Yes 29 42931 088153 016370
Education No 13 172308 265059 073514
Yes 29 165172 234324 043513
Gender No 13 04615 051887 014391
Yes 29 06207 049380 009170
Age No 13 508462 1643597 455852
Yes 29 444483 1517184 281734
Race No 13 09231 027735 007692
Yes 29 08276 038443 007139
Religious Activities No 13 23846 0 76795 0 21299
Yes 29 30000 103510 019221
Group Based Meditators versus Non-group Based Meditators and Non-Meditators
The group based analysis was performed to analyze a possible greater significant
difference between those who meditate in groups versus non-group based meditators and
non-meditators. The rationale was that perhaps the changes brought about via meditation
practice could be attributed to a group phenomenon rather than to a phenomenon of
meditation practice. If significant differences in domains not previously found to be
different are discovered then the results could demonstrate that being a member of a
spiritual group might be a factor to consider in addition to meditation. There were 24
group-based meditators and 18 respondents who either did not belong to a specific group
or were non-meditators.
Group based subjects had a significantly higher wisdom score (t = -2.020; p =
0.050). Group meditators were found to have a higher scores in the reflective and
affective dimensions, with significant differences in the reflective (t = -1.905; p = .064)
and affective (t = -2.56; p =0.014) dimensions of wisdom. Again no significant
differences were found in the cognitive dimension (t = -0.397; p =0.694). Mastery was
again not found to be significant (t = -0.392; p = 0.697). Group meditators had
significantly higher score in the components of purpose in life (t = -3.579; p = 0.001) and
subjective health (t = -2.129; p = 0.039). Non-group meditators were found to have a
significant higher score in the depression scale (t =2.007; p = 0.052). Group meditators
were found to have a greater participation in religious activities (t = -3.359; p = 0.002).
Again none of the demographic statistics were found to be significantly different between
the two measured groups (age: p = 0.871, education: p = 0.552, gender: p = 0.861, and
race: p = 0.711).
Table 2: Group statistics of group based meditators and non-meditators/non-group based
meditators in the various portions of the survey.
Group Statistics of Group Based Meditators vs. Non-Group Based Meditators and Non-Meditators
group N Mean Std Deviation Std Error Mean
Cognitive no 18 40119 044049 010382
yes 24 4 0625 0 38397 0 07838
Reflective no 18 39630 041146 009698
yes 24 42014 039388 008040
Affective no 18 35983 052342 012337
yes 24 39583 038893 007939
Wisdom no 18 38577 039295 009262
yes 24 40741 030171 006159
Mastery no 18 39048 061592 014517
yes 24 39702 046716 009536
Purpose In Life no 18 39259 086739 020445
yes 24 46389 039215 008005
Depression no 18 1 4472 042650 010053
yes 24 1 2292 0 27699 0 05654
Subj Health no 18 38056 068897 016239
yes 24 43542 091461 018669
Education no 18 170000 252050 059409
yes 24 165417 239980 048986
Gender no 18 05556 051131 012052
yes 24 05833 050361 010280
Age no 18 468889 1869850 440728
yes 24 460833 1335768 272662
Race no 18 08333 038348 009039
yes 24 08750 033783 006896
Religious Activities no 18 22778 0 75190 0 17723
yes 24 32083 097709 019945
When applying the threshold of 60-90 minutes a week to qualify as a meditator in
the final analyses, there were 24 meditators and 18 "non-meditators". Twenty-three of
the 24 group-based meditators indicated that they meditated at least 60-90 minutes a
week, whereas only one of the non-group meditators reported to mediate for at least 60-
90 minutes a week.
Threshold meditators scored higher in the dimensions of reflective (t = -1.696; p =
0.098) and affective (t = -2.377; p = 0.022) but no significant differences were discovered
in the cognitive dimension (t = -0.782; p = 0.439). Wisdom was significantly higher in
threshold meditators (t = -2.207; p = 0.049). Threshold meditators had a significantly
higher purpose in life (t = -3.579; p =0.001) and subjective health rating (t = -2.129 ; p
=0.039). No differences were found in self-mastery but non-threshold meditators had a
higher depression rating (t =2.207; p =0.033). Threshold meditators participate more in
religious activities (t =-2.527; p = 0.016). No significant differences were found in the
two groups demographic statistics (age: p =0.615, education: p =0.733, race: p =0.711,
and gender: p =0.430).
Table 3: Group statistics of threshold meditators and non-meditators/non-threshold
meditators in the various portions of the survey.
Group Statistics Meditation Threshold vs Non-Threshold Meditators and Non-Meditators
Meditation Std Std Error
threshold N Mean Deviation Mean
Cognitive No 18 39841 043796 010323
Yes 24 40833 038186 007795
Reflective No 18 39769 042280 009966
Yes 24 41910 039124 007986
Affective No 18 36111 053650 012645
Yes 24 39487 038473 007853
Wisdom No 18 38574 039267 009255
Yes 24 40743 030178 006160
Mastery No 18 38968 060372 014230
Yes 24 3 9762 0 47784 0 09754
Purpose In Life No 18 39259 086739 020445
Yes 24 46389 039215 008005
Depression No 18 1 4583 0 42087 009920
Yes 24 1 2208 0 27620 0 05638
Subj Health No 18 38056 068897 016239
Yes 24 43542 091461 018669
Education No 18 168889 256421 060439
Yes 24 166250 237857 048552
Gender No 18 05000 051450 012127
Yes 24 06250 049454 010095
Age No 18 450000 1952977 460321
Yes 24 475000 1234645 252021
Race No 18 08333 038348 009039
Yes 24 08750 033783 006896
Religious Activities No 18 23889 084984 020031
Yes 24 31250 099181 020245
Functional Imaging Results
After performing deconvolution on the time-locked baseline and time-locked all
and negative affect blocks I performed a Kolmogorov-Smirnoff test. All p-values for the
KS test were p < .0001 therefore a descriptive based analysis was performed. Rejecting
the null hypothesis in the KS test demonstrates that the deconvolved HDR's fit the data
differently in the different cases of deconvolution.
All Affect Based Deconvolution T-Tests
After localizing the various clusters, various t-tests were performed to ascertain
any significant differences in possible global asymmetries between meditators and non-
meditators. Significant differences could not be demonstrated because of the low n of
subjects scanned in addition to the presence of individual differences in the subject's
datasets. After t-tests of designated regions of interest (ROI) were performed an attempt
was made to perform non-parametric statistical tests (i.e. Mann-Whitney test). The non-
parametric tests failed to demonstrate significant differences. A decision was made to
forego statistical tests of difference and move into a descriptive analysis.
All Affect Based Deconvolution Descriptive Analysis
In analyzing the cluster reports, the data was aggregated into meditators and non-
meditators. After localizing all clusters, clusters were grouped into various ROI's e.g.
BA 6 Middle Frontal Gyms and BA 9 Superior Frontal Gyms were grouped into the
Frontal lobe region in their respective hemisphere. In looking at hemispheric
asymmetries on a whole-brain level some interesting findings were discovered (see pie
Non-meditator s00 Left vs Right Hemisphere
S02 Left vs Right Hemisphere
Non-meditator s01 Left vs Right Hemisphere
Non-meditator s05 Left Vs Right Hemisphere
M editator s04 Left vs Right Hemisphere
Non-Meditators Left vs Right Global
Meditators Left vs Right Global
Figure 6: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting hemispheric
activity according to volume size. The red and blue pie charts above the
aggregated non-meditators give the breakdown of each individual non-
meditator subject. The blue and yellow pie charts above the aggregated
meditator data is the breakdown of each individual meditator subject.
s03 Left vs Right Hemisphere
The aggregated cluster data show that in the all based level 89% of the non-
meditator group data were isolated to the right hemisphere with a total volume size of
89945 il compared to only 27% of the meditator group with a total volume size of 23633
pl. The aggregated cluster data for the frontal region showed slight differences
hemispheric activity. Non-meditators right frontal region accounted for 47% of all
frontal activity with a volume size of 3694 [il while meditators right frontal region
accounted for 54% of all frontal activity with a volume size of 4505 pl.
Table 4: Individual subject data of volume of left and right frontal activity (il).
Non-meditator Right Left
SOO 269 1068
S01 2995 3043
S05 430 0
S02 689 1921
S03 3346 1844
S04 470 137
Non-Meditators Frontal Left vs Right
4111, 53% 3694, 47%
Meditators Frontal Right vs Left
Figure 7: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting frontal lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size.
In assessing limbic activity, limbic system structures were aggregated in their
proper hemispheric location and then total activity was summed in accordance with the
two groups. Limbic activity in meditators had a total volume of 5626 [l and non-
meditators had a total volume of 4212 Il. In non-meditators 73% of limbic activity was
isolated to the right hemisphere as opposed to meditators whose right hemisphere limbic
activity was only 40%.
Table 5: Individual subject data of volume of left and right limbic activity (il).
Non-meditator Right Left
SOO 1351 208
S01 1292 931
S05 430 0
S02 1639 1261
S03 117 1718
S04 470 421
Figure 8: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting limbic system
hemispheric activity according to volume size.
The occipital region between the two groups showed differences with right
hemisphere dominant in non-meditators and the left hemisphere dominant in meditators.
Non-meditators right occipital region accounted for 91% of total occipital volume as
opposed to only 35% of total occipital activity in meditators.
NonMeditators Right vs Left Limbic System
Meditators Right vs Left Limbic System
Table 7: Individual subject data of volume of left and right occipital activity (.il).
SOO 19017 844
S01 0 460
S05 2989 953
S02 1311 301
S03 228 3944
S04 1654 1712
Non-Meditators Occipital Right vs Left
Meditators Occipital Right vs Left
Figure 9: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting occipital lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size.
Affect Based Deconvolution
Affect based deconvolution produced significantly lower R2 values which in turn
affect cluster reports. In creating the cluster reports a threshold of an R2 0.16 and a
volume size of 100 pl was implemented. This threshold caused many cluster reports of
affect based datasets to be absent of clusters that met the threshold criteria. Not
surprisingly all subjects' negative based datasets had sufficient activity to produce
clusters that met the cluster report criteria. Therefore in evaluating affect based datasets
only negative based datasets were assessed since all subjects were included in the
Non-meditators total right hemisphere volume activity accounted for 24% of total
activity with a volume of 5638 [il and meditators right hemisphere activity accounted for
38% of total activity with a volume of 6188 pl.
Table 6: Individual subject data of volume of left and right activity (il).
Non-meditator Right Left
SOO 3202 1412
S01 664 1713
S05 1772 14544
S02 616 0
S03 4399 9063
S04 1173 930
Non-Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Global
Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Global
Figure 9: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting hemispheric
activity according to volume size during presentation of negative affective
In assessing frontal lobe activity non-meditators right frontal activity accounted for
41% of total frontal activity with a volume 4633 [il of while meditators right frontal
activity accounted for 59% of total activity with a volume of 932 pl. More interesting
than the ratio of activity to hemispheres is the total frontal region activity. Non-
meditators total frontal region activity volume was 11172 .il while meditators total
volume was 1573 il.
Table 7: Individual subject data of volume of left and right frontal activity (il).
SOO 3202 1412
S01 0 1713
S05 1431 3414
S02 0 0
S03 932 641
S04 0 0
Non-Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Frontal
Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Frontal
Figure 10: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting frontal lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size during presentation of negative
Non-meditators right occipital activity accounted for 43% of total occipital activity
as opposed to meditators whose right hemisphere occipital activity accounted for 65% of
total occipital volume.
Table 8: Individual subject data of volume of left and right occipital activity ()l).
Non-meditator Right Left
SOO 430 296
S01 519 0
S05 0 972
S02 616 0
S03 1260 934
S04 133 125
Non-Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Occipital
gh 949 43
Meditators Neg. Left vs Right Occipital
Figure 11: Aggregated data of meditators and non-meditators depicting occipital lobe
hemispheric activity according to volume size during presentation of negative
Not enough limbic activity was present in the datasets to make a reasonable
One of the groups to participate in this study was the Science of Spirituality which
is a non-profit, non-denominational organization that is headed by Sant Rajinder Singh.
In Sant Rajinder Singh's book on meditation, he captures the transformational process
that is the motivational factor behind many practitioners quest to begin and maintain a
meditative practice, "Through meditation, a whole new world opens up for us. By
learning meditation, we can gain entry through a doorway that leads us to worlds of bliss,
light, and love within" (Singh, 1999, p. 132). From another point-of-view, the heart of a
meditation practice is the cultivation of awareness. As stated by a popular Buddhist
psychiatrist, Mark Epstein M.D., "Breaking identification through the power of
awareness is the great contribution of the meditative approach, and it is inevitably
therapeutic" (Epstein, 1995, p. 125).
The results from the 3D-WS show an interesting pattern of significance. In
looking at the components of wisdom (cognitive, affective, and reflective dimensions)
only two of the components are significantly different between the groups tested. In each
case tested meditators scored higher in reflective and affective domains with affective
being slightly more significant in each case. If meditation is synonymous with only one
word, that word would be "awareness". Ardelt states about the reflective domain, "one
needs to engage in reflective thinking by looking at phenomena and events from many
different perspectives to develop self-awareness and self-insight" (Ardelt, 2003, p.278).
The practice of meditation is a process of developing self-awareness and insight. If the
meditator is engaging in self-awareness then the affective domains greater significant
difference suggests that engaging in self-awareness might produce altruistic emotions. In
discussing the improvement of affective emotions, Ardelt states that the improvement
would likely be brought about by a diminished self-centeredness (Ardelt, 2003). Self-
centeredness hinges upon the presence of a wholly intact ego that takes a position of
subjectivity in the flow of life. Writing on the developmental process of humanity, Ken
Wilber writes, "far from being some sort of narcissistic withdrawal or inward isolation,
meditation is a simple and natural continuation of the evolutionary process, where every
going within is also a going beyond to a wider embrace" (Wilber, 2000b, p. 263). The
widening of awareness naturally brings about a previously discussed notion of
aperspectival awareness. With this awareness a less and less subjective experience would
arise which would lead one towards empathy and compassion brought about via the
ability to be a witness for all sentient beings.
In all three cases, the cognitive domain failed to provide significant differences.
Previously it was mentioned that the cognitive component is comprised of items that
assess an understanding of life or the pursuit of truth. The relatively high level of
education among the participants explain the lack of cognitive significant difference.
Even though Ardelt (2003) didn't find a strong correlation between education and
wisdom she later mentions that those in pursuit of wisdom would likely seek advanced
degrees. In a correlation analysis of wisdom with the three cases the strongest correlation
with wisdom wasn't the length of time one spends per week in individual or group
meditation (r = 0.305; p = 0.049) or group meditative practice (r = 0.304; p = 0.05) but
whether an individual meditates at all (r = 0.421; p = 0.006). Perhaps the willingness to
engage in a practice that facilitates transformation is a strong indicator of wisdom.
Ardelt (2003) discussed the differences between wisdoms of different cultures.
Meditation has a long history in Eastern culture particularly in the religious traditions of
Buddhism. The enhancement of wisdom among meditators may reveal what Ardelt
(2003) stated, "Eastern wisdom traditions tend to integrate the cognitive, reflective, and
affective elements of wisdom. In the Eastern wisdom traditions, wisdom is characterized
by flexibility, honesty, sensitivity, understanding, compassion, altruism, and a balanced
state of mind that is able to perceive and accept the reality of the present moment"
(Ardelt, 2003, p. 283). In Path to Bliss the Dalai Lama comments on the two types of
wisdom, "the wisdom examining the ultimate natures of phenomena, and then wisdom
examining the conventional or relative nature of phenomena" (Lama, 1991, p. 192). The
3D-WS examines both types of wisdom in the three dimensions.
The lack of significant difference in all cases in the area of mastery is not a
surprise. The items that comprise the mastery scale tend to revolve around the issue of
helplessness. I would hypothesize that individuals with the level of education present in
the participants would tend to reveal a sense of mastery via their higher educational
pursuits. Revisiting the therapeutic nature of meditation, I find it very plausible that
purpose in life and subjective health are higher in meditators than non-meditators.
Meditators, group meditators, and threshold meditators all show significantly higher
purpose in life (all groups p < .01) and subjective health (all groups p < .05) scores. The
significant difference between meditators and non-meditators on the depression scale
further supports the claim of meditation as a therapeutic practice. Non-meditators scored
significantly higher on the depression scale which evaluates the psychological state of an
individual over the past week. This finding supports previous research and suggests
meditation is a therapy practice like Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness based therapy.
Education had no significant correlation with any dimension indicating that the
survey accurately detects a type of knowledge not found within the educational system.
A wise individual is sometimes depicted as an elder individual perhaps with gray or white
hair but the correlation analysis showed a negative correlation between age and wisdom
(r = -0.341; p = .027). No further demographic statistics were found to be significant
with any area of the survey except that gender correlated positively with the affective
domain (r = 0.336; p = 0.029). Gender was coded 1 for females therefore female
participants were shown to be significantly different than their male counterparts in the
The functional imaging data provided no statistically significant data. The low n
of each group was sufficient for the task of a pilot study investigating possible differences
in brain activation between meditators and non-meditators. In the time-locked to all
affect based deconvolution analysis, the interesting finding of a more pronounced right
hemisphere dominance in non-meditators than in meditators provides an interesting
framework for launching future studies. According to Lee (2004) the asymmetries of
emotion have found general right hemisphere dominance in the perception of emotion.
This asymmetry was clearly present for non-meditators but less so (or even reversed) for
meditators, in data aggragated over the hemispheres or in data restricted to limbic
structures. Hemispheric asymmetry was less consistent for frontal or occipital regions of
interest. In the negative affect dataset asymmetry does not show a consistent difference
between non-meditators and meditators. Lang & Bradley (1998) found that using
affective stimulation right hemisphere activation was greater than left.
The possible underlying mechanisms for this neurological shift are not widely
understood since repeat scans of meditators viewing affective stimuli have not been
conducted. This study was a pilot to assess possible avenues for future research to
explore differences between meditators and non-meditators in the neuroimaging of
emotion. With the data collected from this study I would propose a study that analyzes
non-meditators who undergo meditation training. The same design of affective picture
stimuli could be implemented to analyze possible volumetric and laterality differences
over the course of meditation training. This study should utilize information derived
from the 3D-WS. It is important that future studies have control over their sample
population in order to isolate possible variables that could account for the variation in
data. Whether fMRI or some other form of non-invasive technology is utilized in
examining meditation, it should always be used in conjunction with behavioral
assessment in order to properly document all of the possible changes brought about
through the practice of meditation. The transformations of meditation practice are not
widely understood so future studies should develop protocols that assess many areas of
This study has confirmed that Wilber' s theory of the right half and left half of the
four-quadrant system is an ongoing reciprocal relationship that can be shown through the
experimentation process. Thus the interdisciplinary nature of the study helped to
demonstrate the integral nature of meditation and that meditation is an ancient practice
that can be studied today via modern technology and methods. Its introduction to
Western culture on a mass level during the 1960's has transformed meditation from a
counter-culture practice to common practice as well as a therapy utilized in medicine. If
this study adds to the body of literature supporting the idea that meditation does indeed
provide a transformation within the body and mind of individuals then I feel I have
accomplished what I set forth to do.
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Marc Franklin Kurtzman was born in Tampa, Florida, on October 17, 1981. He
graduated from Sickles High School in 2000 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in
religious studies from the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, in May 2004.
During Marc's junior year he was accepted into the combined Bachelor's/Maste'rs
program in the Department of Religious Studies. From August 2003 to July 2005, Marc
Kurtzman was employed as a neuroimaging research assistant in the Crosson
Neuroimaging Lab and a part of the neuroimaging core at the Malcom Randall V.A.
Medical Center's Brain Rehabilitation Research Center. Marc's interests are in the role of
religious activities and their possible effects upon the psyche and brain.