Posted from archive: 03.26.2013 | by AMRA


Keune et al. [Biological Psychology] studied the effects of mindfulness meditation on frontal EEG alpha wave asymmetry. It is generally held that relatively higher left frontal alpha power is associated with depression and avoidance motivation, whereas relatively higher right frontal alpha power is associated with approach motivation. While studies agree that mindfulness enhances relative right frontal alpha in healthy adults, the data for depressed adults is contradictory.

To clarify this, the authors measured frontal alpha asymmetry in 57 women with a history of recurrent depressive disorder. They recorded EEGs at baseline, after the induction of a sad mood, and after twenty minutes of either mindfulness meditation or a rumination challenge. In both the conditions, participants were told to focus on their breath, but one group received additional mindfulness instructions, while the other heard distracting instructions to ruminate, which they were told to try to ignore. Participants received no prior training in meditation.

In accord with previous studies, greater baseline left alpha power correlated with depressive symptoms, and greater baseline right alpha power correlated with positive mood. More importantly, mindfulness meditation shifted alpha activation toward the right and reduced negative affect, while there was no similar effect for the rumination challenge. The results support the theory that mindfulness shifts frontal asymmetry, promoting approach motivation and thereby facilitating mood regulation. The study was limited by nonrandom assignment to conditions.


Keune, P. M., Bostanov, V., Hautzinger, M., & Kotchoubey, B. (2013). Approaching dysphoric mood: State-effects of mindfulness meditation on frontal brain asymmetry. Biological Psychology, 93(1),105-13. [PMID: 23410762]

[Link to abstract]