First time meditation may be associated with increased cognitive effort as measured by EEG

1. In this prospective study, individuals who listened to a meditation podcast demonstrated EEG patterns associated with elevated levels of alertness.

2. Engagement in first-time meditation may require increased concentration, impeding ability to achieve a meditative state.

Evidence Rating Level: 4 (Below Average)

Meditation has been established as a means for achieving mental wellness and mindfulness. Specific EEG changes have been associated with a meditative state in those who regularly engage in meditation. The meditation-related EEG changes are associated with relaxation and passive listening. It is unclear if these EEG changes occur at first experience of meditation or only after several sessions.

This prospective study evaluated EEG changes associated with first-time engagement in mindfulness meditation using a breathing meditation podcast. Subjects listened to the 15-minute podcast followed by a break and then a literature podcast for a passive-listening comparison. Subjects had 19 electrodes placed on their heads as per the international 10-20 system. Inclusion criteria included ability to give informed consent and speak fluent Polish. Participants were excluded if they had any prior meditation experience or underlying health problems.

A total of 16 student participants from the University of Warsaw, Poland, were included. During the meditation session, decreases in theta and alpha ranges were seen in conjunction with a global decrease in alpha power. These EEG changes are typically attributed to enhanced alertness. No other changes were seen in comparison to passive listening. The study had several limitations including the lack of a control group, lack of comparison group consisting of experienced meditators, small sample size, and limited analysis of possible confounders such as frequent podcast use. Overall, the results of the present study suggest that early experiences of meditation may increase alertness instead of inducing relaxation.

Click to read the study in International Journal of Neuroscience

Image: PD

©2021 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved. No works may be reproduced without expressed written consent from 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. Inquire about licensing here. No article should be construed as medical advice and is not intended as such by the authors or by 2 Minute Medicine, Inc.