Towards understanding neuronal mechanisms of meditative states

Irrmischer, M., et al. (2018). Controlling the Temporal Structure of Brain Oscillations by Focused Attention Meditation. Human brain mapping. Vol. 39, no 4, pp. 1825-38, https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.23971. Full text.

From the Introduction. Meditation is frequently described as a form of mental training to cultivate cognitive capabilities, including attention, concentration, and emotion regulation. With its popularity for attaining relaxation, for physical and mental health, and enhanced awareness and absorption, there is increasing scientific interest in understanding the brain mechanisms involved. . . .

We hypothesized that attention is balanced at a point of instability between order and disorder, characteristic of so‐called critical systems, which allows transient focus and swift change. As practitioners restrain from distraction during meditation to maintain a single focus, we predict that they might experience a shift from more complex brain dynamics to a state of reduced information propagation and reduced temporal complexity of oscillations. Using data from two independent laboratories, we here show that the temporal complexity of neuronal oscillations is affected by FA (focused attention) meditation training. Furthermore, it is sensitive to the meditative state and the subjective experience of absorption.