Consumer-grade electroencephalogram (EEG) devices designed to assist people with meditation are gaining popularity. This study investigates EEG-based outcome measures provided by the Muse device and their relation to mindfulness scores and mental health in a meditation intervention.
Fifty-three novice meditators (university students taking part in the registered clinical trial NCT03402009) were asked to meditate 10 min per day for 1 month, randomly assigned to use (1) meditation app (“app group”) or (2) meditation app, plus Muse neurofeedback device (“Muse group”). Pre- and post-intervention measures include Muse EEG scores assessed in a 5-min meditation and self-report scales of mindfulness and distress. A satisfaction survey and brief interview were conducted post-intervention.
Baseline levels of mindfulness on MINDSENS were not correlated with “calm” scores on Muse. Following the 1-month meditation intervention, neither meditation group demonstrated improvements in EEG outcome measures according to the Muse app; in fact, the app group performed significantly worse at follow-up compared to baseline according to Muse’s user scores. Conversely, both groups showed significantly reduced distress and increased mindfulness scores following the intervention. Seventy-six percent of participants meditated at least three to four times per week, and both groups reported high levels of satisfaction with their meditation device (84% app group; 74% Muse group).
Users, researchers, and clinicians should use caution in interpreting EEG outcomes on consumer-grade neurofeedback devices. Results suggest EEG outcome scores are not a proxy for mindfulness score, meditation practice, mental health status, or improvement over time in young adult novice meditators.