Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Bruce O'Hara


Meditation describes a large variety of traditions that all include the conscious focus of attention. By maintaining attention, meditators experience both acute and long-term changes in physiology, anatomy, and cognitive performance. The type of performance benefit is believed to depend, at least in part, on the specific type of mental training. What is much less clear in the literature is the impact of a single session of meditation on the brain and how the acute changes could impact performance. Studies in advanced meditators show an increase in neuronal coordination and slowing of neuronal firing across many regions in the brain, but this remains poorly studied in novices. It is also unknown how neural dynamics fluctuate over time during meditation, as most studies have assumed the changes remain relatively constant.

To investigate this, non-meditators were taught a simple eyes-closed focused breathing meditation. This technique is common to many meditation traditions and is often used at the start or end of more advanced meditation techniques. Using a within subject design, attention and vigilance were measured using the psychomotor vigilance test (PVT). Novice meditators showed improvement on the PVT with 20 minutes, and even 5-minutes of meditation in a large classroom setting.

Using electroencephalography, EEG, the neural dynamics during a single session of 20-minute meditation were investigated. This exploratory analysis also implemented a phase synchronization measure of coherence, mean phase coherence (MPC), which is novel to the meditation field. Results suggest that MPC may have identified regions of high coherence during meditation that are also correlated with improved PVT attentional performance. The results also suggest that meditation is a dynamic neural process that requires more careful analysis into changes over time (across a single meditation bout). Finally, results suggest that “control” conditions need to be more systematically studied, as many conditions may show similar benefits or neural dynamics to meditation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)