Impact of regular meditation practice on EEG activity at rest and during evoked negative emotions.

Aftanas L, Golosheykin S

Int J Neurosci. 2005 Jun;115(6):893-909

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The main objective of the present investigation was to examine how long-term meditation practice is manifested in EEG activity under conditions of non-emotional arousal (eyes-closed and eyes-open periods, viewing emotionally neutral movie clip) and while experiencing experimentally induced negative emotions (viewing aversive movie clip). The 62-channel EEG was recorded in age-matched control individuals (n=25) and Sahaja Yoga meditators (SYM, n=25). Findings from the non-emotional continuum show that at the lowest level of arousal (eyes closed) SYM manifested larger power values in theta-1 (4-6 Hz), theta-2 (6-8 Hz) and alpha-1 (8-10 Hz) frequency bands. Although increasing arousal desynchronized activity in these bands in both groups, the theta-2 and alpha-1 power in the eyes-open period and alpha-1 power while viewing the neutral clip remained still higher in the SYM. During eyes-closed and eyes-open periods the controls were marked by larger right than left hemisphere power, indexing relatively more active left hemisphere parieto-temporal cortex whereas meditators manifested no hemisphere asymmetry. When contrasted with the neutral, the aversive movie clip yielded significant alpha desynchronization in both groups, reflecting arousing nature of emotional induction. In the control group along with alpha desynchronization affective movie clip synchronized gamma power over anterior cortical sites. This was not seen in the SYM. Overall, the presented report emphasizes that the revealed changes in the electrical brain activity associated with regular meditation practice are dynamical by nature and depend on arousal level. The EEG power findings also provide the first empirical proof of a theoretical assumption that meditators have better capabilities to moderate intensity of emotional arousal.