Background: The tendency of the mind to wander, a characteristic of the brain's default mode network (DMN), correlates with increased unhappiness and self-referential processing and is a deterrent to establishing a consistent meditation practice. The objective of this study was to test the impact of a secular physiological method of meditation. We hypothesized that EcoMeditation would produce increases in neural communication in brain regions associated with compassion and prosociality and decreases in self-referencing networks, such as the DMN, and that these changes would be found in the experimental group, but not the control group.
Methods: Participants (n=38) were randomized into two groups, and the final sample consisted of 25 participants. One group listened daily to a 22-minute EcoMeditation audio track, while the other used an active control. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to assess brain function before and after four weeks of practice. Mystical experiences, as well as psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, were measured.
Results: Participants in the EcoMeditation group showed significantly increased connectivity between the bilateral hippocampus and the bilateral insula, compared to pre-intervention. In addition, significant decreases of connectivity between the bilateral hippocampus and the midprefrontal and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortices occurred. EcoMeditation participants also scored significantly higher for mystical experiences than the control group. The results for emotional states were mixed, with one assessment finding increased positive mood, but another finding increased negative affect.
Conclusion: After only four weeks, participants using EcoMeditation demonstrated brain states similar to meditation adepts with thousands of hours of traditional practice.
|Number of pages
|Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience
|Published - 8 Oct 2022