Neurofeedback as a Tool for Learning Meditation

July 24, 2020
Nina Fry-Kizler, Science Team

Biofeedback is a technique that is easy to learn and allows us to control some of our bodily functions, like our skin temperature and heart rate. Biofeedback is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, and specific conditions like TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) or shoulder strain. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback where people’s brainwaves are monitored using EEG. There is some evidence that EEG neurofeedback can help a variety of brain conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The majority of evidence involves the treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). With neurofeedback, you can learn to change your brainwaves.

Another scientific discipline that is increasingly using neurofeedback includes those of us in the field of consciousness research who are studying meditation. We know that meditation is beneficial. But many people have a hard time learning to meditate or continuing to meditate for a sustained period of time. IONS researchers are working to help people learn to meditate and keep practicing using state-of-the-art technology.

Tracy Brandmeyer, PhD, and Arnaud Delorme, PhD, recently published a paper on a study they did using neurofeedback as a novel approach for training focused-attention meditation. That research study was based on previous findings showing that expert meditators had more brain waves in the EEG theta band in the front/middle parts of their brain. Using neurofeedback, people can see real-time displays of their brain waves and, through biofeedback, learn to control or influence them. They created a new paradigm that adapts to the user, helping them increase their theta brain waves in the same way that expert meditators demonstrated in the previous study.

Participants who received eight sessions of the adaptive meditation neurofeedback protocol were able to significantly modulate their theta brainwaves over frontal electrodes and demonstrated significantly faster response in a working memory task. Active control participants who received age and gender matched sham neurofeedback showed no differences in frontal theta activity or behavior. These findings help lay the groundwork for the development of brain training protocols and neurofeedback applications that aim to train features of the mental states associated with meditation.

For More Information on this study, visit: Closed-Loop Frontal Midline Theta Neurofeedback: A Novel Approach for Training Focused-Attention Meditation

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