Mindfulness meditators show altered distributions of early and late neural activity markers of attention in a response inhibition task

Neil Bailey, Gabrielle Freedman, Kavya Raj, Caley Sullivan, Nigel Rogasch, Sung Chung, Kate Hoy, Richard Chambers, Craig Hassed, Nicholas Van Dam, Thomas Koenig, Paul Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Attention is vital for optimal behavioural performance in every-day life. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to enhance attention. However, the components of attention altered by meditation and the related neural activities are underexplored. In particular, the contributions of inhibitory processes and sustained attention are not well understood. To address these points, 34 meditators were compared to 28 age and gender matched controls during electroencephalography (EEG) recordings of neural activity during a Go/Nogo response inhibition task. This task generates a P3 event related potential, which is related to response inhibition processes in Nogo trials, and attention processes across both trial types. Compared with controls, meditators were more accurate at responding to Go and Nogo trials. Meditators showed a more frontally distributed P3 to both Go and Nogo trials, suggesting more frontal involvement in sustained attention rather than activity specific to response inhibition. Unexpectedly, meditators also showed increased positivity over the right parietal cortex prior to visual information reaching the occipital cortex (during the pre-C1 window). Both results were positively related to increased accuracy across both groups. The results suggest that meditators show altered engagement of neural regions related to attention, including both higher order processes generated by frontal regions, and sensory anticipation processes generated by poster regions. This activity may reflect an increased capacity to modulate a range of neural processes in order to meet task requirements. This increased capacity may underlie the improved attentional function observed in mindfulness meditators.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0203096
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2019

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