Wellness and meditation update: meditation EEG devices critically reviewed

The Wall Street Journal published “Can Meditation Gadgets Help You Reduce Your Stress- and Find Happiness?” on 12-31-15.  This is a thorough article written by a technology journalist who is also a long-term meditator which discusses devices that claim to help with meditation.  EEG headsets which claim to help with meditation are included in the discussion. He also interviewed several leading neuroscientists who are studying meditation.  Most of them are unimpressed and skeptical of the claims made by the developers of these meditation aids.  The primary concern was best articulated by Richard Davidson, of the U. of Wisconsin’s Center for Healthy Minds.  He was quoted at length:

“If you go back to the root of the word, ‘meditation’ in Sanskrit means ‘familiarization’: familiarizing an individual with the nature of his or her own mind. I think that when we get focused on external signals, we actually may detract from the ability to recognize certain features of our own mind,” said Dr. Davidson. He believes using biofeedback for meditation training can be more detrimental than helpful at this point. From a scientific standpoint, he said, we don’t yet know enough about what brain signals to look for to indicate a true meditative state. “The effort at this point is absurd. Literally, it makes no sense,” said Dr. Davidson.

The author also interviewed his own meditation teacher, and wrote, “He said one can never use a machine to help with meditation because it guides people to look toward the exterior instead of the interior.” This is probably the most concise summary of concerns about meditation gadgets.

This article provides a current update on the status of meditation gadgets of interest to mental health professionals and may be passed on to clients/patients considering use of meditation as part of their wellness program.

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