What Happens In the Brain During Nondual Meditation?

Neuroscientist Zoran Josipovic explains what happens in the brain during three types of meditation: subject-oriented, object-oriented, and nondual awareness. In his research, Zoran discovered that, depending on the focus of the meditation, different structures of the brain are activated.


One thing that we can notice is that different meditation techniques have different effects on the brain. So some meditation techniques are going to activate more medial structures in the brain, which are often associated with the subjective side of our experience. And others are going to activate more lateral side, lateral parietal attention networks in particular, which are associated with objective cellular experience.

And this is what we see in the meditation techniques is that some are more trying to focus on what is the nature of the subject and some are trying to more focus on being aware of the object.

Medial and Lateral sides of the BrainNondual awareness meditation, or awareness of awareness, is going to activate both the medial structures of the brain, such as the medial prefrontal areas, most likely in the dorsal part of the medial prefrontal cortex, and the precuneus which is in the medial parietal area, as well as the lateral areas, frontal parietal attention network. And the reason for that is when we’re resting in the nature of awareness, nature of consciousness, we don’t have a strong subject-object dichotomy. There is evenness of space of awareness. In terms of subject and object, subject and object are released and we also have a simultaneous sense of internal and external space.

A number of neuroscientists now speak of having two distinct networks, globally distributed networks,  in the brain: one being so-called medial or default network that is more active during the rest conditions, or can be also called intrinsic network that is more active when we’re paying attention to our own internal experience. And then we have another network called extrinsic which is more active when we pay attention to something outside, when we’re actively doing and engaging some sort of task.

My hypothesis is most likely there is some sort of a balancing of these two networks in this kind of meditation that involves nondual awareness, or awareness of awareness.

*Image courtesy of brighthubeducation.com

About Zoran Josipovic

Zoran JosipovicZoran Josipovic is Adjunct Assistant Professor and Research Scientist in the fields of Cognitive Neuroscience, Affective Neuroscience, Consciousness and the Brain at NYU. His research focuses on Consciousness, Meditation and Nonduality. Zoran is interested in states of consciousness cultivated through contemplative practice, what these states can tell us about the nature of consciousness and its relation to authentic subjectivity, and what relevance this may have for understanding the global and local organization in the brain. He uses fMRI and a variety of visual and other stimuli to explore functional connectivity changes in the brain’s networks. In addition to being the Director of Contemplative Science Lab, Zoran is also a Research Associate in David Heeger’s Laboratory for Computational Neuroimaging at Center for Neural Science, and a founding member of Margam—metro-area research group on awareness and meditation.  In a previous life Zoran worked as a clinical psychotherapist, a bodyworker and have taught meditation seminars at Esalen Institute for many years.


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