Most meditation traditions integrate attention to the internal state of the body into the practice of meditation, and teach that a central effect of the meditative practice is increased awareness of the body. To test whether meditators have increased body awareness we examined the performance of two groups of experienced meditators compared to one group of non-meditators on heartbeat detection, a task that measures a particular form of interoceptive awareness. Both groups of meditators were identified according to three criteria: 1) a minimum of 15 years of formal meditation practice, 2) a self reported strong daily practice, and 3) having attended at least one meditation retreat during the previous year. Non-meditators had never undergone formal meditation or yoga training. Subjects performed two types of tasks, with identical stimuli but a different attentional focus: a pulse detection and a heartbeat detection task. During each task participants were given an unlimited response time. 1. Interoceptive accuracy scores. Kundalini meditators did not differ significantly from non meditators at pulse detection accuracy (p=.15). A repeated measures ANOVA did not reveal significant differences in heartbeat detection accuracy between the Kundalini and non-meditator groups (statistical analysis for the TB group will be conducted once sample size is met; this will be available by conference time) (p=.84). 2. Ratings of interoceptive accuracy and task difficulty. Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed significant differences between the groups on task accuracy ratings (e.g., “how good will you be” & “how good were you”), (p=.01), and task difficulty ratings (e.g., “how hard will it be” & “how hard was it”) (p=.045). 3. Psychophysiological measures. These are pending, and will be available by conference time. Kundalini meditators do not differ from non-meditators at heartbeat detection accuracy, one measure of interoceptive awareness. Despite the lack of differences in accuracy Kundalini meditators indicated their performance was greater and the task less difficult than non-meditators, suggesting there are differences in how meditators evaluate interoceptive states. (Conclusion for TB group pending once sample size is met).

Sahib Khalsa

University of Iowa