As evidence mounts linking meditation to measurable, widespread changes throughout the brain, body, and behavior, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how we can better reap the benefits of this practice within a modern, western culture. An increasing amount of research is showing support for the effectiveness of meditation in the treatment of psychological disorders, as well. Of particular interest are the commonly seen improvements in mood and emotional regulation, as well as alterations in brain structures related to emotional processes.
Unfortunately, many people have a hard time tolerating meditation long enough to reap these benefits. Those with an overactive brain have a hard time sitting still and calming their mind, while those with an underactive brain might have a hard time focusing or fall asleep. Neurofeedback and biofeedback, alongside other techniques, can train your brain and nervous system to more easily drop into the ideal state for mindfulness meditation.
Neurofeedback- and biofeedback-assisted meditation combines traditional meditation techniques with modern technology. With the use of brainwave training equipment as well as other biofeedback modalities, individuals can learn to meditate more quickly and easily. These modern techniques grew out of decades of scientific research and the historical use of neurofeedback to train deep states. More recently, groundbreaking research through neuroimaging has added valuable information that is guiding efforts to better understand and implement these new technologies.
What is Mindfulness?
While the practice of meditation can take many forms, common features include an object of focus (such as one’s breath) and a gentle, non-judgemental awareness. Here at NeuroGrove, the primary kind of meditation we teach is called Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness has been defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness practice involves a variety of attitudinal pillars that are practiced throughout the day in addition to sitting meditation. The most commonly practiced pillars include: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. As such, we find that this type of meditation provides numerous benefits for health and personal growth that extend beyond our work in the office.
Related Brain Activity
Meditation, especially a regular practice, can have profound structural and functional impacts on the brain. fMRI and other brain imaging tools show an overall reduction in beta waves across the brain, which are known to contribute to anxiety, rumination, and stress. We especially observe a decrease in beta waves, and an increase in slower waves like theta and alpha, in the prefrontal cortex when individuals are meditating. The brains of meditators also exhibit significantly larger gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex, no matter the age of the meditator. In fact, older individuals who meditate show similar cortical thickness to that found in younger brains, suggesting that meditation can actually help minimize age-related decline. Meditators also demonstrate less frontal reactivity to negative stimuli, which further bolsters existing evidence that mediation can help improve emotional and attentional regulation.
Activity in the parietal lobe also tends to slow down during meditation, meaning the brain isn’t working as hard to receive and process information from the external world. Similarly, the flow of information to the thalamus, the brain’s relay station, is reduced. Essentially, the structures related to arousal go offline during meditation, allowing the individual to reach a calmer state and redirect their focus to their internal experience. In addition to the structural changes observed in the frontal lobes of meditators, increases in cortical thickness have also been observed in the hippocampus and temporoparietal junction, the regions related to learning, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy. Meanwhile, brain volume in the amygdala is reduced. Since the amygdala plays important roles in responding to threats, it’s believed that such a reduction in brain volume can translate into an improved ability for getting into calmer, more relaxed states.
The NeuroGrove Modality
NeuroGrove takes a neuroscience-informed, personalized, integrative approach to helping you achieve your wellness goals and improve your meditation practice. The first step of any treatment package is a comprehensive assessment that includes QEEG brain mapping, LORETA 3D neuroimaging, neurocognitive assessment, and a thorough discussion of symptoms and goals. This allows us to determine what your brain needs in order to meditate and design a protocol specific to your unique neural patterns. Neurostimulation and neurofeedback can be used to address any brain imbalances, as well as to guide and teach the brain on how to produce the cortical activity necessary for dropping into a meditative state. Similarly, biofeedback is a great tool for helping you gain more control over emotional regulation and physiological responses like heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. We also provide individualized wellness coaching and mindfulness training to help those new to meditation develop their skills or assist seasoned meditators with evolving their practices and reaching deeper meditative states. Many of these services are offered both in person and remotely, giving you more flexibility in where and how you train. Whichever services you choose to engage with, we will work collaboratively with you to optimize your brain-body wellness and maximize your meditation experiences!
What the Research Says
Research suggests that neurotherapy and integrative treatments can help individuals both gain more awareness around their own brain activity and more control over when and how to drop into a meditative state. See the articles below or check out our Research page for details and examples.
Brandmeyer, T. & Delorme, A. (2013). Meditation and neurofeedback. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 688.
Henriques, G., Keffer, S., Abrahamson, C., & Horst, S. J. (2011). Exploring the effectiveness of a computer-based heart rate variability biofeedback program in reducing anxiety in college students. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 36(2), 101–112. doi:1007/s10484-011-9151-4.
Krigolson, O., Williams, C., Norton, A., Hassal, C., Colino, F. (2017). Choosing Muse: Validation of low-cost, portable, EEG system for ERP research. Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Parnandi, A., Ahmed, B., Shipp, E., & Gutierrez-Osuna, R. (2014). Chill-out: Relaxation training through respiratory biofeedback in a mobile casual game. In G. Memmi & U. Blanke (Eds.), Mobile Computing, Applications, and Services (pp. 252–260). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05452-0_18
van der Zwan, J.E., de Vente, W., Huizink, A.C. et al., (2015). Physical activity, mindfulness meditation, or heart rate variability biofeedback for stress reduction: A randomized controlled trial. Applied Psychophysiological Biofeedback, 40, 257–268