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Mapping complex mind states: EEG neural substrates of meditative unified compassionate awareness

Consciousness and cognition 57
Schoenberg, P.; Ruf, A.; Churchill, J.; Brown, D., Brewer, J. University of Massachusetts Medical School,
Center for Mindfulness,
Department of Medicine,
Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine,
Shrewsbury, MA, USA

Vanderbilt University Medical Center,
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine,
Nashville, TN, USA
2018 Consciousness, Physics

Specific mental training cultivates diminished self-reference, encompassing non-duality, emptiness, awakened-awareness, and compassionate experiences. We aimed to elucidate the neural substrates of four distinct, interdependent Essence-of-Mind states: (1) timelessness, (2) non-preference, non-duality, non-conceptualization, (3) the view of luminosity and limitlessness, (4) unified compassionate experience of oneness (stable awakened-awareness).

EEG data were collected from 30 advanced meditators concomitant to eyes-open/eyes-closed resting baseline, followed by 60-min of instructed practice. Alpha, beta, and gamma, frequency-spatial EEG-dimensions were analyzed. The results revealed that compared to baseline, current density across frequencies significantly decreased upon meditation onset in self-referential, and executive-control regions.

During meditation, gamma-band current density significantly increased from state-1 compared to state-4, within the ACC, precuneus, and superior parietal lobule, whereas beta-band activity increased within the insula. These findings suggest a dissociation between brain regions regulating self-referential vs. executive-control processing, during non-dual, compassionate states, characterized by brilliantly awake awareness, free from conceptual thought and “doing”.

The article was published in: Consciousness and cognition 57: 41-53.

Full article

This work was supported (in part) by the Fetzer Franklin Fund of the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust.