In recent years, there has been significant uptake of meditation and related relaxation techniques, as a means of alleviating stress and fostering an attentive mind. Several electroencephalogram (EEG) studies have reported changes in spectral band frequencies during Qigong meditation indicating a relaxed state. Much less is reported on effects of brain activation patterns induced by Qigong techniques involving bodily movement. In this study, we tested whether (1) physical Qigong training alters EEG theta and alpha activation, and (2) mental practice induces the same effect as a physical Qigong training. Subjects performed the dynamic Health Qigong technique Wu Qin Xi (five animals) physically and by mental practice in a within-subjects design. Experimental conditions were randomized. Two 2-min (eyes-open, eyes-closed) EEG sequences under resting conditions were recorded before and immediately after each 15-min exercise. Analyses of variance were performed for spectral power density data. Increased alpha power was found in posterior regions in mental practice and physical training for eyes-open and eyes-closed conditions. Theta power was increased after mental practice in central areas in eyes-open conditions, decreased in fronto-central areas in eyes-closed conditions. Results suggest that mental, as well as physical Qigong training, increases alpha activity and therefore induces a relaxed state of mind. The observed differences in theta activity indicate different attentional processes in physical and mental Qigong training. No difference in theta activity was obtained in physical and mental Qigong training for eyes-open and eyes-closed resting state. In contrast, mental practice of Qigong entails a high degree of internalized attention that correlates with theta activity, and that is dependent on eyes-open and eyes-closed resting state.
Keywords: EEG; Health Qigong; dynamic Qigong; mental practice; relaxation.