Mapping complex mind states: EEG neural substrates of meditative unified compassionate awareness

Conscious Cogn. 2018 Jan;57:41-53. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.11.003. Epub 2017 Nov 21.


Specific mental training cultivates diminished self-reference, encompassing non-duality, emptiness, awakened-awareness, and compassionate experiences. We aimed to elucidate the neural substrates of four distinct, interdependent Essence-of-Mind states: (1) timelessness, (2) non-preference, non-duality, non-conceptualization, (3) the view of luminosity and limitlessness, (4) unified compassionate experience of oneness (stable awakened-awareness). EEG data were collected from 30 advanced meditators concomitant to eyes-open/eyes-closed resting baseline, followed by 60-min of instructed practice. Alpha, beta, and gamma, frequency-spatial EEG-dimensions were analyzed. The results revealed that compared to baseline, current density across frequencies significantly decreased upon meditation onset in self-referential, and executive-control regions. During meditation, gamma-band current density significantly increased from state-1 compared to state-4, within the ACC, precuneus, and superior parietal lobule, whereas beta-band activity increased within the insula. These findings suggest a dissociation between brain regions regulating self-referential vs. executive-control processing, during non-dual, compassionate states, characterized by brilliantly awake awareness, free from conceptual thought and "doing".

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged