, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp 1360–1380 | Cite as

Mindfulness Meditators Do Not Show Differences in Electrophysiological Measures of Error Processing

  • Neil W. BaileyEmail author
  • Kavya Raj
  • Gabrielle Freedman
  • Bernadette M. Fitzgibbon
  • Nigel C. Rogasch
  • Nicholas T. Van Dam
  • Paul B. Fitzgerald



Mindfulness meditation may improve attention and self-regulation. One component of attention and self-regulation that may allow these improvements is performance monitoring. Neural correlates of performance monitoring can be objectively measured with electroencephalogram (EEG) via the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe). Previous research assessing the ERN and Pe in meditators has resulted in inconsistent findings; some have reported alteration in peak amplitudes from both very brief meditation practice and long-term meditation practice, while others have failed to provide evidence for differences in the ERN or Pe. However, recently developed EEG analysis techniques allow for more rigorous analyses than have been used in past investigations.


The current study measured the ERN and Pe, as well as post-error alpha suppression, during a Go/Nogo task, and emotional and colour Stroop tasks. The measures were compared between 22 experienced meditators (mean of 8 years of practice) and 20 healthy controls.


The results suggested no differences in the ERN, Pe, or post-error alpha suppression (all p > 0.05), even when varying multiple analysis parameters. The study showed equivalent statistical power to previous research, and > 85% power to detect medium effect sizes present in previous research. Bayes Factor analysis indicated the null hypotheses were > 3.5 more likely than any of the alternative hypotheses for the ERN or Pe.


These results suggest that meditation may not alter neural activity related to error processing, despite prior research suggesting that it does.


Mindfulness Meditation EEG Error processing ERN Pe 


Author Contributions

NWB designed and oversaw the study, assisted with data collection, performed the data analysis, and wrote the paper. KR performed data collection, assisted with data analysis, and collaborated with writing of the study. GF performed data collection, assisted with data analysis, and collaborated with writing of the study. BMF assisted with study design and writing of the paper. NCR assisted with study design and writing of the paper. NTVD collaborated in the interpretation of results, writing and editing of the final manuscript. PBF assisted with study design and writing and editing of the final manuscript.


PBF is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Practitioner Fellowship (6069070). NCR is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Fellowship (1072057).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of both The Alfred Hospital and Monash University ethical research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

PBF has received equipment for research from MagVenture A/S, Medtronic Ltd., Cervel Neurotech and Brainsway Ltd. and funding for research from Neuronetics and Cervel Neurotech. PBF is on the scientific advisory board for Bionomics Ltd. All other authors have no conflicts to report.

Supplementary material

12671_2019_1096_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Epworth Centre for Innovations in Mental Health, Epworth Healthcare, The Epworth ClinicMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research CentreMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Brain and Mental Health Research Hub, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences and Monash Biomedical ImagingMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.School of Psychological SciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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