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EEG Characteristics During Mindfulness Meditation Among Buddhist Monks in a Sri Lankan Forest Monastery

Abstract

Objectives

This study provides an analysis of EEG patterns during a Vipassana mindfulness meditation session among Buddhist monks who strictly follow the original teachings of Buddhist doctrine.

Methods

A continuous EEG recording was obtained from Buddhist monks of the “Meethirigala Nissarana Vanaya” forest monastery in Sri Lanka during a Vipassana meditation session that lasted 40 min. Mean amplitudes obtained from FFT at the beginning, at 5-min intervals, and at the end of meditation session, were analyzed with paired t-test. Parametric t statistics of the EEGLAB FieldTrip tool were used for spectral analysis.

Results

All 18 participants were right-handed males. The mean age was 41.4 years (SD 17.5). A progressive increase in the mean amplitude of the entire brain was noted during mindfulness meditation (p = .005). Theta (p = .013), alpha (p = .017), and gamma (p = .030) were significantly high at the end compared to the beginning of meditation. The increment was observed, as progressive for theta, early and late peaks for alpha and at the end for gamma frequencies. Theta activation and alpha activation were observed at the left occipital region and gamma activation at frontal, central, temporal, and occipital regions of both sides of the brain.

Conclusions

Progressive increment of brainpower was noted during the session of mindfulness meditation. Unique theta, alpha, and gamma activation patterns could be specific for meditative transitions of Vipassana.

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Data Availability

The data generated in this research are confidential. Selected data are available upon request.

References

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Acknowledgements

Authors express sincere gratitude to Most Venerable U. Dhammajiva Maha Thero, the Chief preceptor of Meethirigala Nissarana Vanaya forest monastery, for granting required permission and Venerable Panadure Chandaratana Thero for administrative assistance. Authors also gratefully acknowledge the support of all the participant monks.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

CM: designed and executed the study, analyzed data, and wrote the paper. VT: collaborated with material preparation, data analysis and writing the final manuscript. SM: collaborated with material preparation, data collection and editing of final manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chamil Marasinghe.

Ethics declarations

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate 

Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Ethics Review Committee of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka (Reg. No. 23/18). The study was done in accordance with the national ethical standards. Informed written consent was taken from all participants prior to recruitment and before all procedures in this study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Marasinghe, C., Tennakoon, V. & Mahawithanage, S.T.C. EEG Characteristics During Mindfulness Meditation Among Buddhist Monks in a Sri Lankan Forest Monastery. Mindfulness 12, 3026–3035 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01762-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01762-x

Keywords

  • Buddhist monks
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • EEG
  • Vipassana