Enhanced response inhibition and reduced midfrontal theta activity in experienced Vipassana meditators

Catherine I. Andreu*, Ismael Palacios, Cristóbal Moënne-Loccoz, Vladimir López, Ingmar H.A. Franken, Diego Cosmelli, Heleen A. Slagter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Response inhibition - the ability to suppress inappropriate thoughts and actions - is a fundamental aspect of cognitive control. Recent research suggests that mental training by meditation may improve cognitive control. Yet, it is still unclear if and how, at the neural level, long-term meditation practice may affect (emotional) response inhibition. The present study aimed to address this outstanding question, and used an emotional Go/Nogo task and electroencephalography (EEG) to examine possible differences in behavioral and electrophysiological indices of response inhibition between Vipassana meditators and an experience-matched active control group (athletes). Behaviorally, meditators made significantly less errors than controls on the emotional Go/Nogo task, independent of the emotional context, while being equally fast. This improvement in response inhibition at the behavioral level was accompanied by a decrease in midfrontal theta activity in Nogo vs. Go trials in the meditators compared to controls. Yet, no changes in ERP indices of response inhibition, as indexed by the amplitude of the N2 and P3 components, were observed. Finally, the meditators subjectively evaluated the emotional pictures lower in valence and arousal. Collectively, these results suggest that meditation may improve response inhibition and control over emotional reactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13215
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
Early online date13 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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