A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice

Abstract

Activation of a default mode network (DMN) including frontal and parietal midline structures varies with cognitive load, being more active during low-load tasks and less active during high-load tasks requiring executive control. Meditation practices entail various degrees of cognitive control. Thus, DMN activation patterns could give insight into the nature of meditation practices. This 10-week random assignment study compared theta2, alpha1, alpha2, beta1, beta2 and gamma EEG coherence, power, and eLORETA cortical sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice in 38 male and female college students, average age 23.7 years. Significant brainwave differences were seen between groups. Compared to eyes-closed rest, TM practice led to higher alpha1 frontal log-power, and lower beta1 and gamma frontal and parietal log-power; higher frontal and parietal alpha1 interhemispheric coherence and higher frontal and frontal-central beta2 intrahemispheric coherence. eLORETA analysis identified sources of alpha1 activity in midline cortical regions that overlapped with the DMN. Greater activation in areas that overlap the DMN during TM practice suggests that meditation practice may lead to a foundational or ‘ground’ state of cerebral functioning that may underlie eyes-closed rest and more focused cognitive processes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    At the first posttest, subjects were told: “Sit with eyes closed for 10 min, or practice the Transcendental Meditation technique for 10 min, if you have been instructed.” In this way, the researcher recording the data did not know if subjects were resting with eyes closed or were practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Abramson Family Foundation, Howard and Alice Settle, and other private donors for funding this study. We thank Dietrich Lehmann, Pascal Faber, and Roberto D. Pascual-Marqui for their patient instruction in the use of LORETA; and Mario Orsatti and Linda Mainquist for coordinating and conducting the TM intervention in this study. These experiments comply with the current laws of the United States in performing research, and the IRBs at American University and Maharishi University of Management approved the project before it was begun.

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Correspondence to Fred Travis.

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Travis, F., Haaga, D.A.F., Hagelin, J. et al. A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice. Cogn Process 11, 21–30 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-009-0343-2

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Keywords

  • Coherence
  • Power
  • LORETA
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Alpha
  • Beta1