Stimulated brains and meditative minds: A systematic review on combining low intensity transcranial electrical stimulation and meditation in humans

Int J Clin Health Psychol. 2023 Jul-Sep;23(3):100369. doi: 10.1016/j.ijchp.2023.100369. Epub 2023 Feb 3.


Background: Low intensity transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) and meditation are two promising, yet variable, non-pharmacological interventions. Growing research is investigating combined effects of both techniques on one's cognitive, emotional, and physical health.

Objective: This article reviews the current research that combines tES and meditation interventions in healthy and diseased participants. The review considers the intervention parameters and their effects in a well-organized manner.

Method: A systematic search for clinical and experimental published studies was conducted in the PubMed, Cochrane, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) databases using common keywords for tES and for meditation techniques well defined by previous studies. Unpublished ongoing studies were identified with the and clinical trial websites.

Results: 20 published studies and 13 ongoing studies were included for qualitative analysis. 13 published articles studied patients with chronic pain, psychological disorders, cognitive impairment, and movement disorders. Anodal tDCS was the only tES technique while mindfulness meditation was the most common meditation type. Eight studies had a main group effect, with outcome improvement in the active combined intervention. However, most published studies showed improvements after at least one combined intervention with variable effects.

Conclusion: Pairing anodal tDCS with meditation shows promising improvements of the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of daily life. Further studies are required to confirm the relevance of this combination in the clinic.

Keywords: Brain stimulation; Meditation; Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS); Transcranial electrical stimulation (tES); Yoga.