Meditating monkeys

Research undertaken at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands has reported that marmoset monkeys have been conditioned to practice a neurofeedback technique and transport themselves into a meditative state of relaxation and conscious awareness in exchange for marshmallows.

Neurofeedback is technique that uses highly sensitive technologies that measure the electrical activity of the brain, a person is able to sees their brain waves on a screen and view how their thoughts and techniques manipulate their brain wave patterns. Due to the fact that mood disorders, stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, epilepsy, sleep disorders and attention deficit disorder have been associated with dysfunctional brain wave patterns, this technique has been taught in order to aid self-regulation of brain waves.

Previously this technique has been used in humans suffering from the anxiety disorders, addiction disorders, ADHD and epilepsy with some profound results, the patients have been able to train their brain to reach a Zen-like state of relaxation while remaining conscious and aware of their surroundings which has subsequently reduced the symptoms of their associated disorders.

There have been problems in human trials of the Neurofeedback technique. It has been suggested that there may be a placebo effect operating and increased knowledge of a particular condition is aiding the improvements in symptoms rather than the neurofeedback exercises.

By training four marmoset monkeys who don’t know that this neurofeedback is supposed to help them, the placebo effect is eradicated. Therefore this research can shed light on the actual effects neurofeedback as well as allowing scientists to examine any physical effects of the practice on the structure of the brain.

This study provides a vital first step in the path to understanding the exact effects of neurofeedback and other such techniques on the human brain.

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