Concept: Binaural beats
Stories of g-tummo meditators mysteriously able to dry wet sheets wrapped around their naked bodies during a frigid Himalayan ceremony have intrigued scholars and laypersons alike for a century. Study 1 was conducted in remote monasteries of eastern Tibet with expert meditators performing g-tummo practices while their axillary temperature and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity were measured. Study 2 was conducted with Western participants (a non-meditator control group) instructed to use the somatic component of the g-tummo practice (vase breathing) without utilization of meditative visualization. Reliable increases in axillary temperature from normal to slight or moderate fever zone (up to 38.3°C) were observed among meditators only during the Forceful Breath type of g-tummo meditation accompanied by increases in alpha, beta, and gamma power. The magnitude of the temperature increases significantly correlated with the increases in alpha power during Forceful Breath meditation. The findings indicate that there are two factors affecting temperature increase. The first is the somatic component which causes thermogenesis, while the second is the neurocognitive component (meditative visualization) that aids in sustaining temperature increases for longer periods. Without meditative visualization, both meditators and non-meditators were capable of using the Forceful Breath vase breathing only for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature. Overall, the results suggest that specific aspects of the g-tummo technique might help non-meditators learn how to regulate their body temperature, which has implications for improving health and regulating cognitive performance.
Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a significant problem for cancer patients, and there are limited treatment options for this often debilitating condition. Neuromodulatory interventions could be a novel modality for patients trying to manage CIPN symptoms; however, they are not yet the standard of care. This study examined whether electroencephalogram (EEG) neurofeedback (NFB) could alleviate CIPN symptoms in survivors.
A binaural beat can be produced by presenting two tones of a differing frequency, one to each ear. Such auditory stimulation has been suggested to influence behaviour and cognition via the process of cortical entrainment. However, research so far has only shown the frequency following responses in the traditional EEG frequency ranges of delta, theta and gamma. Hence a primary aim of this research was to ascertain whether it would be possible to produce clear changes in the EEG in either the alpha or beta frequency ranges. Such changes, if possible, would have a number of important implications as well as potential applications. A secondary goal was to track any observable changes in the EEG throughout the entrainment epoch to gain some insight into the nature of the entrainment effects on any changes in an effort to identify more effective entrainment regimes. Twenty two healthy participants were recruited and randomly allocated to one of two groups, each of which was exposed to a distinct binaural beat frequency for ten 1-minute epochs. The first group listened to an alpha binaural beat of 10Hz and the second to a beta binaural beat of 20Hz. EEG was recorded from the left and right temporal regions during pre-exposure baselines, stimulus exposure epochs and post-exposure baselines. Analysis of changes in broad-band and narrow-band amplitudes, and frequency showed no effect of binaural beat frequency eliciting a frequency following effect in the EEG. Possible mediating factors are discussed and a number of recommendations are made regarding future studies, exploring entrainment effects from a binaural beat presentation.
Over the past several years meditation practice has gained increasing attention as a non-pharmacological intervention to provide health related benefits, from promoting general wellness to alleviating the symptoms of a variety of medical conditions. However, the effects of meditation training on brain activity still need to be fully characterized. Sleep provides a unique approach to explore the meditation-related plastic changes in brain function. In this study we performed sleep high-density electroencephalographic (hdEEG) recordings in long-term meditators (LTM) of Buddhist meditation practices (approximately 8700 mean hours of life practice) and meditation naive individuals. We found that LTM had increased parietal-occipital EEG gamma power during NREM sleep. This increase was specific for the gamma range (25-40 Hz), was not related to the level of spontaneous arousal during NREM and was positively correlated with the length of lifetime daily meditation practice. Altogether, these findings indicate that meditation practice produces measurable changes in spontaneous brain activity, and suggest that EEG gamma activity during sleep represents a sensitive measure of the long-lasting, plastic effects of meditative training on brain function.
We have recently shown higher parietal-occipital EEG gamma activity during sleep in long-term meditators compared to meditation-naive individuals. This gamma increase was specific for NREM sleep, was present throughout the entire night and correlated with meditation expertise, thus suggesting underlying long-lasting neuroplastic changes induced through prolonged training. The aim of this study was to explore the neuroplastic changes acutely induced by 2 intensive days of different meditation practices in the same group of practitioners. We also repeated baseline recordings in a meditation-naive cohort to account for time effects on sleep EEG activity.
This study is aimed to determine significant physiological parameters of brain and heart under meditative state, both in each activities and their dynamic correlations. Electrophysiological changes in response to meditation were explored in 12 healthy volunteers who completed 8 weeks of a basic training course in autogenic meditation. Heart coherence, representing the degree of ordering in oscillation of heart rhythm intervals, increased significantly during meditation. Relative EEG alpha power and alpha lagged coherence also increased. A significant slowing of parietal peak alpha frequency was observed. Parietal peak alpha power increased with increasing heart coherence during meditation, but no such relationship was observed during baseline. Average alpha lagged coherence also increased with increasing heart coherence during meditation, but weak opposite relationship was observed at baseline. Relative alpha power increased with increasing heart coherence during both meditation and baseline periods. Heart coherence can be a cardiac marker for the meditative state and also may be a general marker for the meditative state since heart coherence is strongly correlated with EEG alpha activities. It is expected that increasing heart coherence and the accompanying EEG alpha activations, heart brain synchronicity, would help recover physiological synchrony following a period of homeostatic depletion.
The underlying changes in heart coherence that are associated with reported EEG changes in response to meditation have been explored. We measured EEG and heart rate variability (HRV) before and during autogenic meditation. Fourteen subjects participated in the study. Heart coherence scores were significantly increased during meditation compared to the baseline. We found near significant decrease in high beta absolute power, increase in alpha relative power and significant increases in lower (alpha) and higher (above beta) band coherence during 3~min epochs of heart coherent meditation compared to 3~min epochs of heart non-coherence at baseline. The coherence and relative power increase in alpha band and absolute power decrease in high beta band could reflect relaxation state during the heart coherent meditation. The coherence increase in the higher (above beta) band could reflect cortico-cortical local integration and thereby affect cognitive reorganization, simultaneously with relaxation. Further research is still needed for a confirmation of heart coherence as a simple window for the meditative state.
This study examined the dissociable neural effects of ānāpānasati (focused-attention meditation, FAM) and mettā (loving-kindness meditation, LKM) on BOLD signals during cognitive (continuous performance test, CPT) and affective (emotion-processing task, EPT, in which participants viewed affective pictures) processing. Twenty-two male Chinese expert meditators (11 FAM experts, 11 LKM experts) and 22 male Chinese novice meditators (11 FAM novices, 11 LKM novices) had their brain activity monitored by a 3T MRI scanner while performing the cognitive and affective tasks in both meditation and baseline states. We examined the interaction between state (meditation vs. baseline) and expertise (expert vs. novice) separately during LKM and FAM, using a conjunction approach to reveal common regions sensitive to the expert meditative state. Additionally, exclusive masking techniques revealed distinct interactions between state and group during LKM and FAM. Specifically, we demonstrated that the practice of FAM was associated with expertise-related behavioral improvements and neural activation differences in attention task performance. However, the effect of state LKM meditation did not carry over to attention task performance. On the other hand, both FAM and LKM practice appeared to affect the neural responses to affective pictures. For viewing sad faces, the regions activated for FAM practitioners were consistent with attention-related processing; whereas responses of LKM experts to sad pictures were more in line with differentiating emotional contagion from compassion/emotional regulation processes. Our findings provide the first report of distinct neural activity associated with forms of meditation during sustained attention and emotion processing.
The presentation of two sinusoidal tones, one to each ear, with a slight frequency mismatch yields an auditory illusion of a beating frequency equal to the frequency difference between the two tones; this is known as binaural beat (BB). The effect of brief BB stimulation on scalp EEG is not conclusively demonstrated. Further, no studies have examined the impact of musical training associated with BB stimulation, yet musicians' brains are often associated with enhanced auditory processing. In this study, we analysed EEG brain responses from two groups, musicians and non-musicians, when stimulated by short presentation (1 min) of binaural beats with beat frequency varying from 1 Hz to 48 Hz. We focused our analysis on alpha and gamma band EEG signals, and they were analysed in terms of spectral power, and functional connectivity as measured by two phase synchrony based measures, phase locking value and phase lag index. Finally, these measures were used to characterize the degree of centrality, segregation and integration of the functional brain network. We found that beat frequencies belonging to alpha band produced the most significant steady-state responses across groups. Further, processing of low frequency (delta, theta, alpha) binaural beats had significant impact on cortical network patterns in the alpha band oscillations. Altogether these results provide a neurophysiological account of cortical responses to BB stimulation at varying frequencies, and demonstrate a modulation of cortico-cortical connectivity in musicians' brains, and further suggest a kind of neuronal entrainment of a linear and nonlinear relationship to the beating frequencies.
Despite decades of research, effects of different types of meditation on electroencephalographic (EEG) activity are still being defined. We compared practitioners of three different meditation traditions (Vipassana, Himalayan Yoga and Isha Shoonya) with a control group during a meditative and instructed mind-wandering (IMW) block. All meditators showed higher parieto-occipital 60-110 Hz gamma amplitude than control subjects as a trait effect observed during meditation and when considering meditation and IMW periods together. Moreover, this gamma power was positively correlated with participants meditation experience. Independent component analysis was used to show that gamma activity did not originate in eye or muscle artifacts. In addition, we observed higher 7-11 Hz alpha activity in the Vipassana group compared to all the other groups during both meditation and instructed mind wandering and lower 10-11 Hz activity in the Himalayan yoga group during meditation only. We showed that meditation practice is correlated to changes in the EEG gamma frequency range that are common to a variety of meditation practices.