I’d like to experiment with using neurofeedback for mindfulness meditation with the OpenBCI and Brainbay/OpenNFB/Neuromore.
I have ran across a lot of somewhat vague information from commercial sources, but I haven’t found good general recommendations regarding what frequencies or mixture of frequencies to train for.
@wjcroft, would you recommend using your Brainbay alpha neurofeedback design for this?
Any other suggestions for a starting neurofeedback protocol for mindfulness meditation?
Adam, hi. Great question.
It depends on what kind of meditation you are doing. Some good papers here,
Meditation and Neurofeedback
Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions.
So the short answer is, yes training to increase alpha and reduce beta is one type of meditation, and a common one. But there are several other flavors as you can see from the tables in the Travis paper. With the VPL environments you would be able to taylor this to your own purposes.
Another meditation style is Les Fehmi’s Open Focus, which produces whole brain, synchronized alpha. This is measured at sites Fpz Cz Oz T3 T4.
Thanks for the speedy reply!
I had ran across the Travis paper at one point previously, and was a bit put off what seemed a somewhat self-promotional emphasis on the uniqueness of TM. On reading it again, though, it does have a lot of quite useful information, as well as references.
This brings me to another question: these and other papers (some of the ones in this previous thread) have good info on the EEG changes that have been observed in meditators of various sorts, but not necessarily used in neurofeedback per se. Would you say that, in general, it is effective to directly train for the EEG features that have been observed in advanced meditators (in whatever method one is interested in), or is there some subtlety to which of these observed EEG changes is a suitable target for neurofeedback?
I think I will try experimenting with uptraining frontal midline theta, since that was a quite consistently observed in “open monitoring” meditators according to Travis. This should provide a good starting point.
Thanks for your help!
Adam, yeah. I’ve done both TM in the distant past (early 1980’s) and then switched over to Vipassana / mindfulness in the mid 80’s; so understand both approaches. And Fred Travis’ research is impeccable.
You might initially think that TM is a ‘concentrative’ / mantra / focused attention style practice. But that is not actually the case. It’s much more subtle than that. The mantra or phrase being used is induced in a manner that is as subtle and gentle as is possible. (It is not “shouted” out mentally.)
This emphasis on subtle-ness and very fine awareness actually puts the practitioner in a place in-between a pervasive sense of consciousness that is universal / everywhere – and the ‘intention’ being softly broadcast. Thus has a quality of ‘inducing’ that intention into the larger field, making oneself a part of that larger field.
Regarding how to connect frequency bands to the neurofeedback. That is the ‘art’ form of neurofeedback. I’d again point to the Meditation and Neurofeedback paper. The feedback then is more of a guidepost that arises periodically to keep you on track with your meditation style. It’s not “doing” the meditation for you. Such as the idea of alerting you when your mind is wandering (which would likely be increased beta activity).
Do note that increasing frontal midline theta would be contraindicated in situations where a person already has difficulty in concentrating or focusing, as in ADD / ADHD. You may find Jay Gunkelman’s phenotype paper helpful in delineating some common patterns.
Jay’s 2005 phenotype paper,
Brief html summary,
Thanks William. TM is not a type of meditation I’m familiar with, so it’s intriguing to hear your description of it.
Have you ever tried doing an EEG recording of a meditation, adding markers when the meditation seems to be subjectively “going well”, and then using the EEG features of those periods as a training target for future sessions? This seems to me like it might be a good calibration technique especially for intermediate meditators, because it would guarantee that the brain state one was training for was appropriate to the type of meditation (to the extent of the subject’s competence, of course!)
I like the idea you mentioned, which is also in the Meditation and Neurofeedback paper, of using feedback as merely a “nudge” to keep one pointed in the right direction or ring a gentle alarm bell when the mind is wandering off track.
Perhaps, rather than rewarding theta, it would be more reliable to start by inhibit beta, just to try to reduce mind wandering?