, Volume 10, Issue 11, pp 2294–2301 | Cite as

Plastic Changes in the White Matter Induced by Templestay, a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Meditation Program

  • Youngwoo Bryan Yoon
  • Dahye Bae
  • Seoyeon Kwak
  • Wu Jeong Hwang
  • Kang Ik K. Cho
  • Kyung-Ok Lim
  • Hye Yoon Park
  • Tae Young Lee
  • Sung Nyun Kim
  • Jun Soo KwonEmail author



Further explorations are needed to determine how behavioral-lifestyle changes of various types influence neural plasticity in the white matter (WM); in particular, little is known about the influence of one’s self-discipline on changes in WM. A retreat program called Templestay follows the self-discipline practices used by Buddhist monks for 3 nights and 4 days; this program mainly involves meditation and other forms of behavioral-lifestyle modifications. In this study, we explored how neural plasticity occurs in WM structures in response to a relatively short retreat program.


We designed a longitudinal study that investigates WM neural plasticity over the course of Templestay. The Templestay group experienced the daily life of Buddhist practitioners, whereas the control group only participated in a retreat program at the same temple. Diffusion tensor imaging data were acquired before and after the Templestay program to investigate neural plasticity in the WM. We examined changes in the fractional anisotropy maps.


We observed significant changes in the fractional anisotropy maps at the left superior longitudinal fasciculus, left posterior corona radiata, and splenium of the corpus callosum after 4 days of Templestay. Based on the results of our study, a 4-day meditation period in combination with behavioral-lifestyle modifications facilitates WM myelination in regions important for cognitive functions.


These results provide evidence of very rapid structural remodeling of the WM, suggesting that activity-dependent changes in myelination are induced by Templestay, a relatively understudied self-discipline program that includes behavioral-lifestyle modifications.


Mindfulness training Meditation Neural plasticity Templestay Diffusion tensor imaging Fractional anisotropy 


Data Availability Statement

All data are available at the Open Science Framework (

Author Contributions

YBY and DB: analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. SK, WJH, and KKC: acquired the MRI data. TYL and SNK: collaborated in recruitment and study procedures. KYL and HYP: participated in theoretical development. JSK: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. YBY and DB contributed equally to this work. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


This study was supported by the Brain Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (Grant No. 2017M3C7A1029610; Grant No. 2016R1E1A1A02921618).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The present study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Seoul National University Hospital.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12671_2019_1199_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (82 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 81 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Youngwoo Bryan Yoon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dahye Bae
    • 1
  • Seoyeon Kwak
    • 1
  • Wu Jeong Hwang
    • 1
  • Kang Ik K. Cho
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kyung-Ok Lim
    • 4
  • Hye Yoon Park
    • 5
  • Tae Young Lee
    • 3
  • Sung Nyun Kim
    • 6
  • Jun Soo Kwon
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Brain and Cognitive SciencesSeoul National University College of Natural SciencesSeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of Medicine in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Human Behavioral MedicineSNU-MRCSeoulRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Forensic PsychiatryMinistry of JusticeGongjuRepublic of Korea
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatrySeoul National University College of MedicineSeoulRepublic of Korea
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatrySMC- Seoul Medical CenterSeoulRepublic of Korea

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