Spectral power and functional connectivity changes during mindfulness meditation with eyes open: a magnetoencephalography (MEG) study in long-term meditators
Whilst a number of previous studies have been conducted in order to investigate functional brain changes associated with eyes-closed meditation techniques, there is a relative scarcity in the literature with regards to changes occurring during eyes-open meditation. The current project used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to investigate differences in spectral power and functional connectivity between 11 long-term mindfulness meditators (LTMMs) with >5 years of experience and 12 meditation-naïve control participants both during baseline eyes-open rest and eyes-open open-monitoring (OM) mindfulness meditation. During resting with eyes-open, prior to meditating, greater mean alpha power was observed for LTMMs in comparison to controls. However, during the course of OM meditation, a significantly greater increase in theta power was observed over a broad fronto-centro-parietal region for control participants in comparison to LTMMs. In contrast, whole-head mean connectivity was found to be significantly greater for long-term meditators in comparison to controls in the theta band both during rest as well as during meditation. Additionally, mean connectivity was significantly lower for long-term meditators in the low gamma band during rest and significantly lower in both low and high gamma bands during meditation; and the variance of low-gamma connectivity scores for long-term meditators was significantly decreased compared to the control group. The current study provides important new information as to the trait functional changes in brain activity associated with long-term mindfulness meditation, as well as the state changes specifically associated with eyes-open open monitoring meditation techniques.