Neural correlates of nonjudgmental perception induced through meditation

Sucharit Katyal, Philippe Goldin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Ambiguous sensory stimuli provide insight into the dynamics of the human mind. When viewing substantially different images in the two eyes (i.e., binocular rivalry (BR)), perception spontaneously fluctuates between the two images along with patch-like mixtures of the two, with limited ability to control such fluctuations. Previous studies have shown that long-term meditation training can enable a more stable perception by reducing such fluctuations. Using electroencephalography, we investigated the neural bases of perceptual stabilization in long-term meditators (LTMs) and age-matched meditation-naive control participants. We measured BR alternations before and after participants practiced meditation. We expected that perceptual stabilization through meditation could occur via one of two neurocognitive mechanisms: (1) a more engaged/effortful attention reflected by increased long-range phase synchronization between early visual sensory and higher-level brain regions, or (2) a disengaged/nonevaluative form of attention reflected by decreased phase synchronization. We found that compared with control participants, LTMs were in a significantly longer mixed perceptual state following concentrative meditation practice. The increase in mixed percepts across individuals was strongly correlated with reduced parietal-occipital gamma-band (30-50 Hz) phase synchrony. These findings suggest that concentrative meditation enables a nonevaluative perceptual stance supported by reduced communication between hierarchical visual brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-81
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Volume1499
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • attention
  • binocular rivalry
  • consciousness
  • EEG
  • meditation
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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