Gamma waves

Gamma waves: Relation to meditation
Experiments on Tibetan Buddhist monks have shown a correlation between transcendental mental states and gamma waves. A suggested explanation is based on the fact that the gamma is intrinsically localized. Neuroscientist Sean O’Nuallain suggests that this very existence of synchronized gamma indicates that something akin to a singularity – or, to be more prosaic, a conscious experience – is occurring. This work adduces experimental and simulated data to show that what meditation masters have in common is the ability to put the brain into a state in which it is maximally sensitive.
As hinted above, gamma waves have been observed in Tibetan Buddhist monks. A 2004 study took eight long-term Tibetan Buddhist practitioners of meditation and, using electrodes, monitored the patterns of electrical activity produced by their brains as they meditated. The researchers compared the brain activity of the monks to a group of novice meditators (the study had these subjects meditate an hour a day for one week prior to empirical observation). In a normal meditative state, both groups were shown to have similar brain activity. However, when the monks were told to generate an objective feeling of compassion during meditation, their brain activity began to fire in a rhythmic, coherent manner, suggesting neuronal structures were firing in harmony. This was observed at a frequency of 25–40 Hz, the rhythm of gamma waves. These gamma-band oscillations in the monk’s brain signals were the largest seen in humans (apart from those in states such as seizures). Conversely, these gamma-band oscillations were scant in novice meditators. Though, a number of rhythmic signals did appear to strengthen in beginner meditators with further experience in the exercise, implying that the aptitude for one to produce gamma-band rhythm is trainable.
Such evidence and research in gamma-band oscillations may explain the heightened sense of consciousness, bliss, and intellectual acuity subsequent to meditation. Notably, meditation is known to have a number of health benefits: stress reduction, mood elevation, and increased life expectancy of the mind and its cognitive functions. The current Dalai Lama meditates for four hours each morning, and he says that it is hard work. He elaborates that if neuroscience can construct a way in which he can reap the psychological and biological rewards of meditation without going through the practice each morning, he would be apt to adopt the innovation.The aforementioned study in which gamma states were induced in mice may be a step in this direction.

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