A compassionate and prosocial attitude can be cultivated through loving-kindness (metta) meditation. The proposed study aims to elucidate how brain activity, prosocial behaviour and prosocial attitudes in novice meditators change with a brief loving-kindness meditation training. Furthermore, the benefits of using neurofeedback to learn metta meditation strategies will be investigated. Twenty female participants will receive a one-day metta meditation training and afterwards will practice meditating in an magnetic resonance scanner. Thus, brain activity changes induced by training will be assessed online. To establish a clear relationship between brain activity and metta, participants will be asked to modulate the intensity level of the metta state. Half of the participants will receive feedback about their ventral striatum activity. Before and after training, participants will complete questionnaires, economic games and implicit attitude measures. The proposed study will advance our knowledge about a) the neural underpinnings of loving-kindness, b) short-term plasticity of the affective brain, c) the relation between compassion and prosocial behaviour as well as d) the applicability of neurofeedback to metta meditation training.

Susanne Leiberg

University of Zurich