May/June 2024

Despite the increasing popularity of meditation in the Western world, there is still very limited knowledge about the neural correlates of this practice.

In a new study done in collaboration with a Tibetan monastery in India, Italian researchers show that different meditative practices result in different patterns of brain activity, and that the most focused type of meditation has the largest effect. 

The study was conducted over 12 weeks at the Tibetan Sera Jey Monastery in India. It involved 23 monks, who were divided into three groups: beginners, intermediates, and advanced meditators.

Concentrative meditation entails focusing attention on a single “object” like the breath or a mantra. In analytical meditation, by contrast, attention is focused on a concept or a teaching.

While both types of meditation led to some alterations in EEG patterns, the effects of concentrative meditation were more robust and consistent.

The researchers observe: “Our results showed that concentrative meditation elicited more numerous and marked changes in the EEG power compared to analytical meditation, and mainly in the form of an increase in the theta, alpha and beta frequency ranges.”

Lead author Bruno Neri was impressed by the monks’ ability “to voluntarily induce different mental states that are easily recognizable with objective measuring instruments”, he said in an interview with PsyPost magazine.

Anders Bolling

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