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01-03-2010 | Original Paper | Uitgave 1/2010 Open Access

Mindfulness 1/2010

State Effects of Two Forms of Meditation on Prefrontal EEG Asymmetry in Previously Depressed Individuals

Mindfulness > Uitgave 1/2010
Thorsten Barnhofer, Tobias Chittka, Helen Nightingale, Claire Visser, Catherine Crane


We investigated state effects of two forms of meditation on electroencephalography prefrontal α-asymmetry, a global indicator of approach versus withdrawal motivation and related affective state. A clinical series of previously depressed individuals were guided to practice either mindfulness breathing meditation (N = 8) or a form of meditation directly aimed at cultivating positive affect, loving kindness or metta meditation (N = 7). Prefrontal asymmetry was assessed directly before and after the 15-min meditation period. Results showed changes in asymmetry towards stronger relative left prefrontal activation, i.e., stronger approach tendencies, regardless of condition. Further explorations of these findings suggested that responses were moderated by participants’ tendencies to engage in ruminative brooding. Individuals high in brooding tended to respond to breathing meditation but not loving kindness meditation, while those low in brooding showed the opposite pattern. Comparisons with an additionally recruited “rest” group provided evidence suggesting that changes seen were not simply attributable to habituation. The results indicate that both forms of meditation practice can have beneficial state effects on prefrontal α-asymmetry and point towards differential indications for offering them in the treatment of previously depressed patients.

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