On the Neurobiology of Meditation: Comparison of Three Organizing Strategies to Investigate Brain Patterns during Meditation Practice

Frederick Travis
2020 Medicina  
Three broad organizing strategies have been used to study meditation practices: (1) consider meditation practices as using similar processes and so combine neural images across a wide range of practices to identify the common underlying brain patterns of meditation practice, (2) consider meditation practices as unique and so investigate individual practices, or (3) consider meditation practices as fitting into larger categories and explore brain patterns within and between categories. The first
more » ... organizing strategy combines meditation practices defined as deep concentration, attention to external and internal stimuli, and letting go of thoughts. Brain patterns of different procedures would all contribute to the final averages, which may not be representative of any practice. The second organizing strategy generates a multitude of brain patterns as each practice is studied individually. The rich detail of individual differences within each practice makes it difficult to identify reliable patterns between practices. The third organizing principle has been applied in three ways: (1) grouping meditations by their origin—Indian or Buddhist practices, (2) grouping meditations by the procedures of each practice, or (3) grouping meditations by brain wave frequencies reported during each practice. Grouping meditations by their origin mixes practices whose procedures include concentration, mindfulness, or effortless awareness, again resulting in a confounded pattern. Grouping meditations by their described procedures yields defining neural imaging patterns within each category, and clear differences between categories. Grouping meditations by the EEG frequencies associated with their procedures yields an objective system to group meditations and allows practices to "move" into different categories as subjects' meditation experiences change over time, which would be associated with different brain patterns. Exploring meditations within theoretically meaningful categories appears to yield the most reliable picture of meditation practices.
doi:10.3390/medicina56120712 pmid:33353049 fatcat:izdv6fjwxfefhe2xswzz6ji73y