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Positive Subjective Experiences Related to Clarified Gamma Brainwave Neurofeedback from the Prefrontal Cortical Region of Meditators and Non-Meditators

Beverly Rubik, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor, California Inst. of Integral Studies
Part-time Faculty, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center
President, Institute for Frontier Science

(Key words: psychophysiology, prefrontal cortex, meditation, transcendental meditation, positive emotions, neurofeedback, biofeedback, consciousness, altered states of consciousness, happiness, love)

Previous studies showed that 25 to 42 Hz brainwaves from the prefrontal cortical region in advanced Tibetan Buddhist meditators were found to be correlated with heightened experiences of compassion and clarity. In the present study, subjects who were either advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation™ (TM) (n=6) or non-meditating controls (n=6) were engaged in a single session of neurofeedback in this same brainwave region using the Happiness Enhancer. The Happiness Enhancer is a novel type of neurofeedback instrument that can assess and train various dimensions of mental processing, including the Neureka! experience, which Cowan (2007) hypothesizes to be related to the processing of new learning and its reinforcement by positive feelings. To create the Neureka! neurofeedback protocol, the PBHT clarifies the 40 Hz. band of gamma EEG production from the prefrontal region by filtering out signal artifact from muscle tension or movement.

Real-time unlabeled auditory and/or visual neurofeedback from the Neureka! protocol was provided to the subjects in a controlled laboratory setting. They were asked to do the following sequential tasks: (1) to explore the Neureka!-related experience and to subsequently describe it in their own words; (2) to engage for two minutes in each of 16 different emotional and cognitive states spoken to them as a sequence of descriptive words or phrases, and to decide, by comparing their momentary experience to that moment’s Neureka! (clarified 40 Hz. gamma) neurofeedback, how strongly these states correlated with the Neureka! neurofeedback; (3) to engage in a neutral state to measure baseline values of Neureka!; and (4) to quickly produce their maximum value of Neureka! neurofeedback.

Results show: (1) self-assessed descriptions of the Neureka! experience were comparable for both groups; (2) the associations of 11 of the 16 descriptors with the Neureka! neurofeedback were significantly positive, with the largest scores for “happiness” (p < .0001) and “loving” (p < .0001) and comparable for both groups (all p levels were > .05),; (3) the associations of 3 of the 16 descriptors with the Neureka! neurofeedback were significantly negative with the largest scores for “stressed” (p < .0001) and “disappointed” (p < .0001), and comparable for both groups (all p levels were > .05); (4) baseline measurements of the Neureka! (clarified gamma band) were indistinguishable for the 2 groups ( p > .05); (5) Although both groups were able to significantly increase gamma using Neureka! neurofeedback (p < .002), meditators were better able to quickly increase these gamma brainwaves from the prefrontal region than controls (p = .02).

We conclude that the Neureka! experience appears to involve positive emotions of happiness and love, and lowered stress; and that TM practitioners have greater facility than controls in achieving it in a single neurofeedback session.




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