Psychophysiological Correlates of Nondual States of Awareness

Research

Completed
Intramural Project

Psychophysiological Correlates of Nondual States of Awareness

Testing the Ontological Status of the Experience of Meditation Induced Timeless States
Principal Investigator(s): 
Dean Radin, PhD, Cassandra Vieten, PhD
Co-investigator(s): 
Arnaud Delorme, PhD
Program Areas: 
Extended Human Capacities
Project Year Started: 
2008
Description: 

Mystics, meditators, and everyday people who have had peak experiences describe subjective states of awareness in which they experience what has been termed “nondual awareness”—the dissolving of boundaries between self and other, feeling at one with everything that is, and often a sense of timelessness. Are these experiences fantasy, hallucinations, or do they accurately reflect awareness extending beyond the accepted boundaries of time and space?

To investigate objective correlates of these impressions, 32 channels of EEG in eight advanced meditators and eight matched non-meditators were examined before two types of randomly presented stimuli. Each subject was exposed to unpredictable flashes of light or audio tones, and slow cortical potentials (SCP) were examined one second prior to those stimuli. Across all subjects significant differences in the distribution of SCP were observed before light vs. audio stimuli, primarily in occipital and right parietal regions. Differences were stronger in the meditation group as compared to the non-meditation group. Fourteen of 32 channels in the meditation group exceeded p < 0.05 (evaluated via nonparametric bootstrap and corrected for multiple testing), of which 5 exceeded p < 0.0001. This study conceptually replicates prior experiments, supporting the existence of anomalous anticipatory effects associated with subjective impressions of “timelessness.”

We would like to acknowledge the following for supporting this project: 
The Bial Foundation and the Baumann Institute