A Neural Marker for Training Focused Attention Meditation: Closed-loop FM Neurofeedback Tracy Brandmeyer , Arnaud Delorme (University of California San Francisco, Berkeley, California ) C22
Cortical oscillations serve as an index of both sensory and cognitive processes and represent one of the most promising candidates for training the neural mechanisms underlying top-down cognitive processes and functions. Insights into the nature of cortical oscillations reveal the unique capacity for humans to voluntarily control and interact with their own neural activity when presented with real-time sensory feedback. Research findings suggest that theta oscillations (3-7 Hz) recorded over medial-frontal electrodes are broadly associated with a number of higher-order executive functions and may serve as the mechanistic backbone for cognitive control. Our previous research conducted on advanced meditation practitioners found the presence of increased frontal midline theta (FM) oscillations during self-reported periods of deep meditative absorption during a focused-attention (concentration) style of meditation. In an effort to narrow the explanatory gap by connecting neurophysiological features and data (i.e. EEG data measured in real-time) to the phenomenological nature of our experience (states of focused attention) we developed a methodologically novel adaptive neurofeedback protocol with the aim of up-regulating FM by means of concentration techniques similar to focused attention meditation. Participants who received the real-time adaptive neurofeedback and were trained in the basic techniques of focused attention meditation were able to significantly modulate FM over frontal electrodes within eight sessions, and demonstrated significant differences in measures of working memory on the n-back task assessed before and after adaptive neurofeedback training. No significant differences in frontal theta activity or behavior were observed in the active control participants receiving age and gender matched sham neurofeedback.