Contemplative traditions and cognitive scientists have long been studying the mechanisms of attention and its effects on consciousness. Meditation is a practice through which agents can deliberately control attention and thus alter their experience of the surrounding world. Recent theoretical work has used predictive processing—a prominent and unifying theory of brain function—to explain this mechanism. The central hypothesis is that focused attention meditation can precisely modulate the expectations that is used to interpret sensory data. While ordinary perception is inherently tinted by the conditioning of the past, attentional processes can alter these processes, allowing one to break free of previously engrained ways of perceiving. In the case of deep absorption states like Jhana, meditators are focusing on the object of absorption at the exclusion of all else, completely downregulating the influence of expectations. This study will empirically test the hypothesis that Jhana meditation is able to override the automatic precision estimation that drives ordinary states of perception. To do this, we will use mobile EEGs and the auditory oddball task to compare how sounds are processed differently during Jhana absorptions compared to ordinary Mindfulness of Breathing in advanced meditators in South East Asia.

Jonas Mago

McGill University