Changes in EEG and autonomic nervous activity during meditation

International Journal of Psychophysiology.

2005 Feb;55(2):199-207.

Takahashi T, Murata T, Hamada T, Omori M, Kosaka H, Kikuchi M, Yoshida H, Wada Y.

Department of Neuropsychiatry, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Fukui, Matsuoka-cho, Fukui 910-1193, Japan.

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Meditation is the attainment of a restful yet fully alert physical and mental state practiced by many as a self-regulatory approach to emotion management, but the psychophysiological properties and personality traits that characterize this meditative state have not been adequately studied. We quantitatively analyzed changes in psychophysiological parameters during Zen meditation in 20 normal adults, and evaluated the results in association with personality traits assessed by Cloninger’s Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). During meditation, increases were observed in fast theta power and slow alpha power on EEG predominantly in the frontal area, whereas an increase in the normalized unit of high-frequency (nuHF) power (as a parasympathetic index) and decreases in the normalized unit of low-frequency (nuLF) power and LF/HF (as sympathetic indices) were observed through analyses of heart rate variability. We analyzed the possible correlations among these changes in terms of the percent change during meditation using the control condition as the baseline. The percent change in slow alpha EEG power in the frontal area, reflecting enhanced internalized attention, was negatively correlated with that in nuLF as well as in LF/HF and was positively correlated with the novelty seeking score (which has been suggested to be associated with dopaminergic activity). The percent change in fast theta power in the frontal area, reflecting enhanced mindfulness, was positively correlated with that in nuHF and also with the harm avoidance score (which has been suggested to be associated with serotonergic activity). These results suggest that internalized attention and mindfulness as two major core factors of behaviors of mind during meditation are characterized by different combinations of psychophysiological properties and personality traits.

 

Autonomic changes during OM meditation

The Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

 1995 Oct;39(4):418-20.

Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR.

Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore.

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The autonomic and respiratory variables were studied in seven experienced meditators (with experience ranging from 5 to 20 years). Each subject was studied in two types of sessions–meditation (with a period of mental chanting of “OM”) and control (with a period of non-targetted thinking). The meditators showed a statistically significant reduction in heart rate during meditation compared to the control period (paired ‘t’ test). During both types of sessions there was a comparable increase in the cutaneous peripheral vascular resistance. Keeping in mind similar results of other authors, this was interpreted as a sign of increased mental alertness, even while being physiologically relaxed (as shown by the reduced heart rate).

 

Breathing through a particular nostril can alter metabolism and autonomic activities

The Indian Journal Physiology Pharmacology.

 1994 Apr;38(2):133-7

Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR.

Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Chamarajpet, Bangalore.

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There is increasing interest in the fact that breathing exclusively through one nostril may alter the autonomic functions. The present study aimed at checking whether such changes actually do occur, and whether breathing is consciously regulated. 48 male subjects, with ages ranging from 25 to 48 years were randomly assigned to different groups. Each group was asked to practice one out of three pranayamas (viz. right nostril breathing, left nostril breathing or alternate nostril breathing). These practices were carried out as 27 respiratory cycles, repeated 4 times a day for one month. Parameters were assessed at the beginning and end of the month, but not during the practice. The ‘right nostril pranayama’ group showed a significant increase, of 37% in baseline oxygen consumption. The ‘alternate nostril’ pranayama group showed an 18% increase, and the left nostril pranayama group also showed an increase, of 24%. This increase in metabolism could be due to increased sympathetic discharge to the adrenal medulla. The ‘left nostril Pranayama’ group showed an increase in volar galvanic skin resistance, interpreted as a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity supplying the sweat glands. These results suggest that breathing selectively through either nostril could have a marked activating effect or a relaxing effect on the sympathetic nervous system. The therapeutic implications of being able to alter metabolism by changing the breathing pattern have been mentioned.

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