Meditation and Wisdom

Title: Meditation, Wisdom, and fMRI Emotional Capacitance: Does meditation enhance wisdom? (IRB Project #647-2003)

Principal Investigator: Marc Kurtzman, M.A.

Subinvestigators: Monika Ardelt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Shaya Isenberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religion, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Louis A. Ritz, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine and McKnight Brain Institute; Gene R. Thursby, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Religion, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Abstract: 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, and neuroscience.

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 meditation.


If you would like to inquire further about this study, you may contact the Principal Investigator by email:

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