A case study of a meditation-induced altered state: increased overall gamma synchronization

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This study presents two case reports of altered states spontaneously occurring during meditation in two proficient practitioners. These states, known as fruition, are common within the Mahasi School of Theravada Buddhism, and are considered the culmination of contemplation-induced stages of consciousness. Here, electrophysiological measures of these experiences were measured, with the participant’s personal reports used to guide the neural analyzes. The preliminary results demonstrate an increase in global long-range gamma (25–45 Hz) synchronization during the fruition states, compared to the background meditation. The discrepancies and similarities with other neuroscientific studies of meditation-induced altered states are discussed. Albeit preliminary, the results presented here provide support for the possibility - previously raised by various authors - that long-range global gamma synchronization may offer an underlying mechanism for un-learning of habitual conditioning and mental patterns, possibly underpinning the neural correlate of the Buddhist concept of liberation. Finally, this pilot study highlights the utility of employing neuro-phenomenology, namely using first-person reports to guide neural analyzes, in the study of subtle human consciousness states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-106
Number of pages16
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Mind and Life Institute, Francisco J. Varela Research Award 2012-Varela-Berkovich, and by a grant from the Bial Foundation (27/10). I deeply thank the Newman Society as well as Tovana Insight Meditation Society and their members for collaborating and enabling this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Altered states of consciousness
  • Gamma band
  • Meditation
  • Synchronization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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