Spontaneous eye movements during focused-attention mindfulness meditation

PLoS One. 2019 Jan 24;14(1):e0210862. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210862. eCollection 2019.


Oculometric measures have been proven to be useful markers of mind-wandering during visual tasks such as reading. However, little is known about ocular activity during mindfulness meditation, a mental practice naturally involving mind-wandering episodes. In order to explore this issue, we extracted closed-eyes ocular movement measurements via a covert technique (EEG recordings) from expert meditators during two repetitions of a 7-minute mindfulness meditation session, focusing on the breath, and two repetitions of a 7-minute instructed mind-wandering task. Power spectral density was estimated on both the vertical and horizontal components of eye movements. The results show a significantly smaller average amplitude of eye movements in the delta band (1-4 Hz) during mindfulness meditation than instructed mind-wandering. Moreover, participants' meditation expertise correlated significantly with this average amplitude during both tasks, with more experienced meditators generally moving their eyes less than less experienced meditators. These findings suggest the potential use of this measure to detect mind-wandering episodes during mindfulness meditation and to assess meditation performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Delta Rhythm / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This work was supported by Scuola Superiore "Sant'Anna" (https://www.santannapisa.it/) Phd program to AM. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.