Event-related potential and behavioural differences in affective self-referential processing in long-term meditators versus controls

Sucharit Katyal*, Greg Hajcak, Tamara Flora, Austin Bartlett, Philippe Goldin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Contemplative practices are thought to modify one’s experience of self and fundamentally change self-referential processing. However, few studies have examined the brain correlates of self-referential processing in long-term meditators. Here, we used the self-referential encoding task (SRET) to examine event-related potentials (ERP) during assessment of pleasant and unpleasant self-views in long-term meditators versus age-matched meditation-naïve control participants. Compared with controls, meditators endorsed significantly more pleasant and fewer unpleasant words as self-referential. We also found a between-group difference in the early component of the late-positive-potential (LPP) of the ERP characterized by a larger response to unpleasant versus pleasant words in controls and no difference in meditators. A cross-sectional design, such as the one used in the present study, has certain caveats like self-selectivity bias. If such caveats did not affect our results, these findings suggest that a long-term contemplative lifestyle, of which meditation training is an integral part, alters self-referential processing towards a more adaptive view of self and neural equivalence towards pleasant and unpleasant self-views. These findings suggest that long-term meditation training may affect brain and behavioural mechanism that support a more flexible and healthy relationship to one's self.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • EEG
  • Emotion
  • ERP
  • Late-positive potential
  • Meditation
  • Self-reference
  • SRET

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