Neurophysiological correlates to psychological trait variables in experienced meditative practitioners

Authors: Thilo Hinterberger, Niko Kohls, Tsutomu Kamei, Amanda Feilding, Harald Walach.


“Meditation” has frequently been used as an umbrella term for diverse consciousness practices. Although neuropsychological state and trait measures in persons experienced in meditation practice have been reported during the last years, there is no consensus about their phenomenological meaning and correlation with experiences. In this study we aimed to investigate the neuronal, psychological and phenomenological commonalities of various meditation styles by correlating 64 channel of EEG (electroencephalogram) data with questionnaire measures tapping into mindfulness (FMI) and exceptional and spiritual experiences (EEQ). Significant correlations between EEG measures and the mindfulness score, amount of meditation experience, and exceptional experiences such as visionary dreams were found. The heuristic approach of classifying spiritual and meditative techniques on three different dimensions – neuronal, phenomenological and psychological trait – seems to be a promising way for developing a taxonomy of meditative states that is not only based on a superficial, technological surface level description of a particular mind-body practice.