EEG neurofeedback has potential to increase the effectiveness of mobile meditation applications by providing synchronous performance feedback to meditators. This crossover trial aimed to evaluate the effects of auditory EEG neurofeedback on state mindfulness during focused attention meditation—a putative mediator of mental health benefits—relative to no feedback.
Adult participants (N = 68, Mage = 22.66, SDage = 7.35) completed a task-based measure of state mindfulness while meditating with and without auditory feedback from a consumer-grade EEG headband. Participants rated subjective meditation experiences in each condition. A subgroup (n = 29) completed 14 days of home practice with the device and responded to open-ended questions about their experience.
Auditory feedback was associated with greater state mindfulness (RR = 1.15, 95% CI [1.00, 1.29]). Device-measured mind wandering was lower when feedback was present (d = − 0.22 [− 0.07, − 0.37]), but there was a negligible effect on device-measured recoveries from mind wandering episodes (d = − 0.11 [− 0.30, 0.08]). Feedback was associated with quantitative differences in subjective experiences consistent with heightened arousal. Thematic analysis revealed helpful (active, guiding) and unhelpful (stressful, distracting, incongruent with subjective experience) aspects of feedback.
EEG neurofeedback appears to increase state mindfulness in adults during a brief meditation. These results support feedback as an effective adjunct to meditation. Psychoeducation regarding feedback and the meditative experience may help to maximise the beneficial effects. Replication of these findings in clinical populations is warranted.