Enhancing meditation training for beginner meditators using functional MRI neurofeedback 

People who are beginners at meditation often struggle to keep their attention focused on an object because of being lost in distraction. This can make meditation difficult, frustrating and time-consuming. Through this project, we will examine whether using advanced, high-resolution, and safe brain-based technology (functional MRI neurofeedback) can solve this issue. In other words, we aim to provide precise and live feedback of the brain dynamics of beginner meditators while they are meditating. Such live feedback can teach beginners to engage the desired brain state with the correct meditation technique. Our interdisciplinary team of engineers, psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, physicists and meditation practitioners aims to further develop understanding of the key brain mechanisms involved in meditation. We hypothesise that learning to meditate with precise live guidance from brain activity will improve the efficiency of future meditation practice, and make meditation less time-consuming and less frustrating for beginners.

University of Melbourne contributors:

External collaborators:

Saampras Ganesan

Project lead | Saampras Ganesan

Saampras is undertaking his PhD with the Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Melbourne. His research is focused on developing and improving brain-based technological solutions to support meditation practice and make it accessible to more people. Since childhood, he has always been curious about the brain. He has a broad background in biomedical engineering, robotics engineering and neuroimaging, along with a natural inclination towards psychological mindedness. He has also been meditating for about 4 years. This has helped him become increasingly sensitive to many practical challenges encountered during the process of meditation, especially at the beginner stage.

These experiences together have molded his motivation to pursue this interdisciplinary project that delves into neuroimaging, engineering, and contemplative science. He and his team have recently established capacity for real-time neurofeedback at the 7T MRI scanner in Melbourne Brain Centre, to be able to conduct this study. Furthermore, his previous experiences in academic teaching and content development have assisted him in designing the project to be as learner- and beginner-friendly as possible.

Outside of research, Saampras enjoys travel, cooking, exercise, playing the guitar and singing. He also tries to squeeze in a meditation session everyday, and over time this has helped him develop a healthy space between his responses and emotions & thoughts.