Mindful Disintegration and the Decomposition of Self in Healthy Populations: Conception and Preliminary Study

Abstract

The concept and quantification of ‘disintegration’ related to mindfulness were examined, i.e. attentional refinement to microscopic resolution wherein constituents of matter are decomposed into elemental units. Thus, perceptual data are synthesized less coherently. To explore this hypothesis, neural substrates of perceptual disorganization (high-frequency EEG event-related synchronization dynamics—ERD/ERS) and contextual meaning (N400 ERP) were investigated in healthy practitioners before and after a mindfulness retreat. N400 ERP amplitude attenuated, as did gamma-ERD. Shift from beta-ERD to beta-ERS was observed. These findings suggest: (1) mediated gamma-oscillations reflecting disrupted neural binding of visual representation/cohesion, (2) reduced N400 amplitude reflecting diminished extraction of contextual meaning, and (3) modulations in beta-synchrony that may serve to ‘stabilize’ cortical functioning during the transformative disintegrative process related to mindfulness, akin to a process of ‘non-reactivity’ at the cortical level. The latter may provide a candidate neural index for the construct of ‘equanimity’ within the mindfulness purview. An overarching interpretative framework of the results paralleling adaptive versus maladaptive disintegrative experience is further discussed.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO); and a Mind and Life Institute visiting scholarship. The authors gratefully thank all those who participated in the study. Much appreciation and gratitude to the Nuns, particularly Sister Cristina, for sanctioning the research to be conducted at the Monastero Clarisse Eremite, Fara in Sabina, Rome, Italy.

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Correspondence to Poppy L. A. Schoenberg.

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Schoenberg, P.L.A., Barendregt, H.P. Mindful Disintegration and the Decomposition of Self in Healthy Populations: Conception and Preliminary Study. Psychol Stud 61, 307–320 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12646-016-0374-6

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Keywords

  • Attention training
  • Perceptual representation
  • Visual binding
  • Mooney-face
  • Contextual meaning
  • N400
  • Beta
  • Gamma
  • Event-related (de-) synchronization (ERD/ERS)