Functional brain mapping during recitation of buddhist scriptures and repetition of the namu amida butsu; a study in experienced Japanese monks

Author: Shimomura T, Fujiki M, Akiyoshi J, Yoshida T, Tabata M, Kabasawa H, Kobayashi H
Affiliation: Dept. of Neurosurgery, Oita University Faculty of Medicine, Oita, 879-5593, Japan
Conference/Journal: Turk Neurosurg.
Date published: 2008 Apr
Other: Volume ID: 18 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 134-41 , Word Count: 203

BACKGROUND: The invocation Namu Amida Butsu (Nembutsu), voices the hope of rebirth into Amida\'s Pure Land. In the Nembutsu, Buddhists imagine that they are absorbed into Amida\'s Pure Land. Shiritori, a Japanese word chain game, is a common task used to activate language related regions in Japanese. The purpose of this study was to identify the regions activated during praying of the Namo Amida Butsu (Nembutsu), and the reciting of Buddhist scriptures (Sutra). MATERIAL and METHOD: Functional MRI (fMRI) was used to identify the regions activated by the Nenbutsu, the Sutra and the Shiritori in eight highlytrained Japanese monks. RESULTS: The task of repeating the Nenbutsu activates the medial frontal gyrus, which is mainly related to mental concentration and visuospatial attention, similar to the areas activated by meditation. The task of reciting the Sutra activates the left lateral middle frontal gyrus, the right angular gyrus, and the right supramarginal gyrus, which are related to visuospatial attention also involved in the area activated by meditation. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that different types of meditation in Japanese Buddhism showed different brain regional activation. The Nenbutsu activated the prefrontal cortex, and the Sutra activated the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right parietal cortex.
PMID: 18597227