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Poster C137

Facilitating Meditation with Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation: A First Investigation in Experienced Practitioners

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Dr. Joshua Cain1 (, Dr. Tracy Brandmeyer1, Ninette Simonian1, Jay Sanguinetti2, Shinzen Young2, Matthew Sacchet3, Nicco Reggente1; 1Institute for Advanced Consciousness Studies (IACS), 2Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA, 3Meditation Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA USA

In recent years, scientific evidence for the benefits of consistent meditation has grown dramatically; however, so too has evidence that many would-be practitioners find great difficulty in maintaining a regular practice. Thus, if it were possible to reliably induce successful states of mindfulness—more quickly, consistently, or with less effort—this significant barrier to the benefits of mindfulness would be effectively lowered. We aim to study the possibility of inducing mindfulness via direct neuromodulation using focused ultrasound (FUS) applied to three candidate regions: the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the bilateral head of the caudate, and the bilateral ventral-anterior insular cortex. Here, neuro-navigated FUS is applied for 12 minutes to 36 expert Vipassana meditators midway through a 1-hour Vipassana meditation. During each session, meditative depth and a wide range of physiological measures are probed throughout the meditation, while extensive phenomenological questionnaires are given after each session. Our pilot data in experts so far (n=14) reveals a robust effect of caudate stimulation on self-reported meditative depth during meditation when compared to sham stimulation (perception of sham is at chance). Likewise, changes in the caudate condition on sub-scores of the Meditation Depth Inventory and Profile of Mood States compared to sham stimulation are consistent with deeper meditation and deeper relaxation during/after caudate stimulation. Finally, heart rate decreases while heart rate variability increases following caudate stimulation compared to sham simulation, while these are strongly (r > 0.8, r is negative for heart rate) [anti]correlated with reported depth only in the caudate condition.

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April 13–16  |  2024