Occipital Gamma Activation During Vipassana Meditation

February 1, 2010
Arnaud Delorme, PhD

Cahn B, Delorme A, Polich J. Occipital gamma activation during Vipassana meditation. (2010) Cognitive Processing11(1): 39-56. doi: 10.1007/s10339-009-0352-1. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


Long-term Vipassana meditators sat in meditation vs. a control rest (mind-wandering) state for 21 min in a counterbalanced design with spontaneous EEG recorded. Meditation state dynamics were measured with spectral decomposition of the last 6 min of the eyes-closed silent meditation compared to control state. Meditation was associated with a decrease in frontal delta (1-4 Hz) power, especially pronounced in those participants not reporting drowsiness during meditation. Relative increase in frontal theta (4-8 Hz) power was observed during meditation, as well as significantly increased parieto-occipital gamma (35-45 Hz) power, but no other state effects were found for the theta (4-8 Hz), alpha (8-12 Hz), or beta (12-25 Hz) bands. Alpha power was sensitive to condition order, and more experienced meditators exhibited no tendency toward enhanced alpha during meditation relative to the control task. All participants tended to exhibit decreased alpha in association with reported drowsiness. Cross-experimental session occipital gamma power was the greatest in meditators with a daily practice of 10+ years, and the meditation-related gamma power increase was similarly the strongest in such advanced practitioners. The findings suggest that long-term Vipassana meditation contributes to increased occipital gamma power related to long-term meditational expertise and enhanced sensory awareness.

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