Abstract: Alpha Neurofeedback Vs. Mindfulness Meditation have both been shown to improve at- tentional performance and increase full 8–12-Hz EEG alpha amplitude, but no studies have compared MM and NFB on their effects for modulating EEG alpha or attentional control.
Sixty-one university students were randomized to a 15-min single-session MM (n = 24), NFB (n = 17), or sham-NFB (SHAM; n = 20) intervention and were compared on EEG alpha full and sub-band amplitudes during completion of a single 15-min session of either intervention across 5 succes- sive 3-min epochs, as well as during performance of the Stroop test of Mindfulness Meditation Vs. Alpha Neurofeedback.
Mindfulness Meditation Vs. Alpha Neurofeedback participants demonstrated higher global full-band alpha amplitude when compared with SHAM participants during the final intervention epoch, whereas no group differences were observed for sub-band amplitudes.
In the absence of group differences in behavioral performance, MM participants exhibited a lower ERD of the upper alpha- band within frontal cortex 200–400 ms post-stimulus on the Stroop task, an effect that correlated with upper alpha ampli- tudes demonstrated during the intervention.
Future research directions are discussed.
Over the last decade, we have witnessed an exponential increase in the interest in meditation research. While this is in part due to improvements in neuroimaging methods, it is also due to the variety of medical practices incorporating meditation into therapeutic protocols. With the general aim of understanding how meditation affects the mind, brain, body, and general health, particularly interesting findings in recent research suggest that the mental activity involved in meditation practices may induce brain plasticity (Lutz et al., 2004).
With its increasing popularity, many people in Western societies express an interest and motivation to meditate. However, for many, it can often be quite difficult to maintain a disciplined and/or regular practice, for various reasons, ranging from a lack of time to general laziness. Machine-assisted programs such as neurofeedback may help individuals develop their meditation practice more rapidly. Methods such as neurofeedback incorporate real-time feedback of electroencephalography (EEG) activity to teach self-regulation and may be potentially used as an aid for meditation.
One hypothesis to explain the similarity between meditation and neurofeedback is that both techniques facilitate and improve concentration and emotion regulation, for which both attentional control and cognitive control are necessary. When one aims to alter attentional control, one must learn to manipulate the amount of attention that is naturally allocated to processing emotional stimuli. Similarly, when an individual is attempting to exercise or gain some form of cognitive control they must alter their expectations and judgments regarding emotional stimuli (Braboszcz et al., 2010; Josipovic, 2010). These core principles are central to both meditation and neurofeedback, with the distinguishing feature being that meditation is self-regulated, and neurofeedback is machine-aided. It is worth noting that the alpha and theta frequency bands trained in most cognitive enhancement neurofeedback protocols (Zoefel et al., 2011) share many similarities with the EEG frequency bands that show the most significant change during the early stages of meditation practice (Braboszcz and Delorme, 2011; Cahn et al., 2013).