, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 301–311 | Cite as

Supporting Mindfulness Practices with Brain-Sensing Devices. Cognitive and Electrophysiological Evidences

  • Davide CrivelliEmail author
  • Giulia Fronda
  • Irene Venturella
  • Michela Balconi


Mindfulness meditation is at present deemed also as form of mental training that may allow for empowering focusing, attention regulation, and executive control skills. Nonetheless, the potential of traditional mindfulness practice for improving cognitive and neural efficiency is affected by two critical requirements—intensity of exercise and perseverance to practice—which represent a known limitation of accessibility to meditation practices. It has been suggested that the impact of such limitations might be reduced thanks to the support of external devices. The present study aims at testing the efficacy of an intensive technology-mediated intervention based on mindful practices and supported by a brain-sensing device to optimize cognitive performance and neural efficiency. Forty participants took part in the study and were randomly divided in an active control and an experimental group. Both groups were involved in a structured intervention, which lasted 4 weeks and was constituted by brief daily activities. The experimental group, differently from the active control, underwent mindfulness-based practices with the support of a dedicated device. Analyses highlighted increased electrophysiological responsiveness indices at rest and frequency profiles consistent with a relaxed mindset in the experimental group. Participants in the experimental group also showed improved electrophysiological markers of attention regulation and improved cognitive performance, as measured by a complex reaction times task. Findings hint at the potential of the investigated technology-mediated mindfulness practice for enhancing cognitive performance and for inducing consistent modulations of neural efficiency markers.


Mindfulness Neurofeedback EEG Wearable device Attention Cognitive control 



Authors kindly thank Alessandra Coniglio and Marina Ballerio for their support in data collection.

Author Contributions

DC: designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. GF and IV: collaborated with the execution of the study, analyzed the data, and collaborated in the editing of the manuscript. MB: designed the study, supervised the data analyses, and critically revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standard.

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Andresen, J. (2000). Meditation meets behavioural medicine: the story of experimental research on meditation. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7(11–12), 17–73.Google Scholar
  2. Atchley, R., Klee, D., Memmott, T., Goodrich, E., Wahbeh, H., & Oken, B. (2016). Event-related potential correlates of mindfulness meditation competence. Neuroscience, 320, 83–92. Scholar
  3. Balconi, M., Fronda, G., Venturella, I., & Crivelli, D. (2017). Conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious mechanisms in emotional behaviour. Some applications to the mindfulness approach with wearable devices. Applied Sciences, 7(12), 1280.
  4. Berger, H. (1929). Über das Elektrenkephalogramm des Menschen. Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 87, 527–570. Scholar
  5. Bhayee, S., Tomaszewski, P., Lee, D. H., Moffat, G., Pino, L., Moreno, S., & Farb, N. A. S. (2016). Attentional and affective consequences of technology supported mindfulness training: a randomised, active control, efficacy trial. BMC Psychology, 4(1), 60.
  6. Caffarra, P., Vezzadini, G., Dieci, F., Zonato, F., & Venneri, A. (2002). Una versione abbreviata del test di Stroop: dati normativi nella popolazione italiana. Nuova Rivista di Neurologia, 12(4), 111–115.Google Scholar
  7. Cahn, B. R., & Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 180–211. Scholar
  8. Chatrian, G.-E., Lettich, E., & Nelson, P. L. (1988). Modified nomenclature for the “10%” electrode system. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, 5(2), 183–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheng, K. S., Chang, Y. F., Han, R. P. S., & Lee, P. F. (2017). Enhanced conflict monitoring via a short-duration, video-assisted deep breathing in healthy young adults: an event-related potential approach through the Go/NoGo paradigm. PeerJ, 5, e3857. Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (II). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385–396. Scholar
  12. De Tanti, A., Inzaghi, M. G., Bonelli, G., Mancuso, M., Magnani, M., & Santucci, N. (1998). Normative data of the MIDA battery for the evaluation of reaction times. Europa Medicophysica, 34(4), 211–220.Google Scholar
  13. Fish, J., Brimson, J., & Lynch, S. (2016). Mindfulness interventions delivered by technology without facilitator involvement: what research exists and what are the clinical outcomes? Mindfulness, 7(5), 1011–1023. Scholar
  14. Folstein, J. R., & Van Petten, C. (2008). Influence of cognitive control and mismatch on the N2 component of the ERP: a review. Psychophysiology, 45(1), 152–170. Scholar
  15. Ghisi, M., Flebus, G. B., Montano, A., Sanavio, E., & Sica, C. (Eds.). (2006). Beck depression inventory—II. Firenze: Giunti OS.Google Scholar
  16. Grossman, P. (2010). Mindfulness for psychologists: paying kind attention to the perceptible. Mindfulness, 1(2), 87–97. Scholar
  17. Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537–559. Scholar
  18. Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2017). Meditation and metacontrol. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 1(2), 115–121. Scholar
  19. Jevning, R., Wallace, R. K., & Beidebach, M. (1992). The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 16(3), 415–424. Scholar
  20. Jung, T.-P., Makeig, S., Humphries, C., Lee, T.-W., McKeown, M. J., Iragui, V., & Sejnowski, T. J. (2000). Removing electroencephalographic artifacts by blind source separation. Psychophysiology, 37(2), 163–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam Dell.Google Scholar
  22. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses: healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  23. Keng, S.-L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041–1056. Scholar
  24. Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., … Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763–771.
  25. Lippelt, D. P., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity—a review. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1083).
  26. Lomas, T., Cartwright, T., Edginton, T., & Ridge, D. (2015). A qualitative analysis of experiential challenges associated with meditation practice. Mindfulness, 6(4), 848–860. Scholar
  27. Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 163–169. Scholar
  28. Malinowski, P., Moore, A. W., Mead, B. R., & Gruber, T. (2017). Mindful aging: the effects of regular brief mindfulness practice on electrophysiological markers of cognitive and affective processing in older adults. Mindfulness, 8(1), 78–94. Scholar
  29. Moore, A., Gruber, T., Derose, J., & Malinowski, P. (2012). Regular, brief mindfulness meditation practice improves electrophysiological markers of attentional control. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6(February), 18. Scholar
  30. Neuper, C., & Pfurtscheller, G. (2001). Event-related dynamics of cortical rhythms: Frequency-specific features and functional correlates. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 43(1), 41–58. Scholar
  31. Niedermeyer, E. (1999). The normal EEG of the waking adult. In E. Niedermeyer & F. H. Lopes da Silva (Eds.), Electroencephalography (pp. 167–192). Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.Google Scholar
  32. Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., Jenkins, Z. M., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 95, 156–178. Scholar
  33. Pedrabissi, L., & Santinello, M. (Eds.). (1989). State-trait anxiety inventory—forma Y. Firenze: Giunti OS.Google Scholar
  34. Quaglia, J. T., Braun, S. E., Freeman, S. P., McDaniel, M. A., & Brown, K. W. (2016a). Meta-analytic evidence for effects of mindfulness training on dimensions of self-reported dispositional mindfulness. Psychological Assessment, 28(7), 803–818. Scholar
  35. Quaglia, J. T., Goodman, R. J., & Brown, K. W. (2016b). Trait mindfulness predicts efficient top-down attention to and discrimination of facial expressions. Journal of Personality, 84(3), 393–404. Scholar
  36. Rosanova, M., Casali, A., Bellina, V., Resta, F., Mariotti, M., & Massimini, M. (2009). Natural frequencies of human corticothalamic circuits. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(24), 7679–7685. Scholar
  37. Sliwinski, J., Katsikitis, M., & Jones, C. M. (2017). A review of interactive technologies as support tools for the cultivation of mindfulness. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1150–1159. Scholar
  38. Spinnler, H., & Tognoni, G. (1987). Standardizzazione e taratura italiana di test neuropsicologici. The Italian Journal of Neurological Sciences, Suppl, 8(6), 1–120.Google Scholar
  39. Tang, Y.-Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(4), 213–225. Scholar
  40. Theiler, S. (2015). A pilot study using mindfulness-guided-relaxation & biofeedback to alleviate stress in a group. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 219, 163–167.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Wenk-Sormaz, H. (2005). Meditation can reduce habitual responding. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11(2), 42–58.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. West, M. A. (1980). Meditation and the EEG. Psychological Medicine, 10(02), 369. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit in Affective and Social NeuroscienceCatholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCatholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations