Source-space EEG neurofeedback links subjective experience with brain activity during effortless awareness meditation

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Center for Mindfulness; Department of Psychiatry

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Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Meditation is increasingly showing beneficial effects for psychiatric disorders. However, learning to meditate is not straightforward as there are no easily discernible outward signs of performance and thus no direct feedback is possible. As meditation has been found to correlate with posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) activity, we tested whether source-space EEG neurofeedback from the PCC followed the subjective experience of effortless awareness (a major component of meditation), and whether participants could volitionally control the signal.

METHODS: Sixteen novice meditators and sixteen experienced meditators participated in the study. Novice meditators were briefly trained to perform a basic meditation practice to induce the subjective experience of effortless awareness in a progressively more challenging neurofeedback test-battery. Experienced meditators performed a self-selected meditation practice to induce this state in the same test-battery. Neurofeedback was provided based on gamma-band (40-57Hz) PCC activity extracted using a beamformer algorithm. Associations between PCC activity and the subjective experience of effortless awareness were assessed by verbal probes.

RESULTS: Both groups reported that decreased PCC activity corresponded with effortless awareness (P < 0.0025 for each group), with high median confidence ratings (novices: 8 on a 0-10 Likert scale; experienced: 9). Both groups showed high moment-to-moment median correspondence ratings between PCC activity and subjective experience of effortless awareness (novices: 8, experienced: 9). Both groups were able to volitionally control the PCC signal in the direction associated with effortless awareness by practicing effortless awareness meditation (novices: median % of time=77.97, P=0.001; experienced: 89.83, P < 0.0005).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the feasibility of using EEG neurofeedback to link an objective measure of brain activity with the subjective experience of effortless awareness, and suggest potential utility of this paradigm as a tool for meditation training.


EEG, Meditation, Mindfulness, Neurofeedback, PCC, Posterior cingulate cortex

DOI of Published Version



Neuroimage. 2017 May 1;151:117-127. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.047. Epub 2016 Feb 26. Link to article on publisher's site

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