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Psychophysiology. 2016 May;53(5):749-58. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12619. Epub 2016 Feb 12.

Effects of meditation practice on spontaneous eyeblink rate.

Kruis A1,2,3,4, Slagter HA5,6, Bachhuber DR3,4, Davidson RJ3,4,7, Lutz A1,2,3,4.

Author information

1
Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, Brain Dynamics and Cognition Team, CRNL, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, Lyon, France.
2
University Lyon 1, Lyon, France.
3
Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
4
Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
5
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
6
Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
7
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Abstract

A rapidly growing body of research suggests that meditation can change brain and cognitive functioning. Yet little is known about the neurochemical mechanisms underlying meditation-related changes in cognition. Here, we investigated the effects of meditation on spontaneous eyeblink rates (sEBR), a noninvasive peripheral correlate of striatal dopamine activity. Previous studies have shown a relationship between sEBR and cognitive functions such as mind wandering, cognitive flexibility, and attention-functions that are also affected by meditation. We therefore expected that long-term meditation practice would alter eyeblink activity. To test this, we recorded baseline sEBR and intereyeblink intervals (IEBI) in long-term meditators (LTM) and meditation-naive participants (MNP). We found that LTM not only blinked less frequently, but also showed a different eyeblink pattern than MNP. This pattern had good to high degree of consistency over three time points. Moreover, we examined the effects of an 8-week course of mindfulness-based stress reduction on sEBR and IEBI, compared to an active control group and a waitlist control group. No effect of short-term meditation practice was found. Finally, we investigated whether different types of meditation differentially alter eyeblink activity by measuring sEBR and IEBI after a full day of two kinds of meditation practices in the LTM. No effect of meditation type was found. Taken together, these findings may suggest either that individual difference in dopaminergic neurotransmission is a self-selection factor for meditation practice, or that long-term, but not short-term meditation practice induces stable changes in baseline striatal dopaminergic functioning.

KEYWORDS:

Cognitive control; Dopamine; EOG; Eyeblink rate; Meditation

PMID:
26871460
PMCID:
PMC4837060
DOI:
10.1111/psyp.12619
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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