A Comparison of the Attentional Effects of Single-Session Mindfulness Meditation and Fp-HEG Neurofeedback in Novices

Abstract

The efficacy of mindfulness meditation (MM) relative to prefrontal hemoencephalography (Fp-HEG) neurofeedback (NFB) for enhancing attentional functioning and increasing Fp-HEG has not been studied. Moreover, few measures exist for assessing attentional capacities during MM. In the present study, we therefore randomized participants to MM (n = 23), NFB (n = 26), or a passive counting backward control condition (n = 21) and measured Fp-HEG at the frontal pole during a pretreatment baseline, during each of the 15-min interventions (MM, NFB, or control) and during subsequent performance of the Attentional Network Test (ANT). Meditation Breath Attention Scores (MBAS) were also assessed in the MM group as a measure of individual differences in the ability to sustain attention to breathing (i.e., to disengage from mind wandering) during MM, and a comparable Counting Backward Attention Score (CBAS) was assessed in the counting control group. Relative to baseline, Fp-HEG was reduced during interventions, as well as during ANT performance, across groups, with no significant differences between groups. NFB participants evidenced improved ANT accuracy relative to control, with MM not differing from NFB or control. Increased accuracy during the ANT was correlated with increasing Fp-HEG across groups. Within the MM group, increased MBAS were also associated with increased ANT accuracy as well as slower ANT orienting. CBAS were marginally higher than MBAS, indicating that sustaining attention to backward counting may have been easier than sustaining attention to breath sensation. We conclude that a single session of Fp-HEG may be effective in improving attention whereas the benefits of MM may require multiple sessions. We also infer that mindful concentration during meditation may be associated with general attentional capacities. Replication and longitudinal extension in larger samples are needed.

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Correspondence to Paul Frewen.

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Lai, C., MacNeil, B. & Frewen, P. A Comparison of the Attentional Effects of Single-Session Mindfulness Meditation and Fp-HEG Neurofeedback in Novices. Mindfulness 6, 1012–1020 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0347-6

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Neurofeedback
  • Attention
  • Meditation Breath Attention Scores (MBAS)