Inter-brain Synchronization in the Practice of Tibetan Monastic Debate

van Vugt, M. K., Pollock, J., Johnson, B., Gyatso, K., Norbu, N., Lodroe, T., Gyaltsen, T., Phuntsok, L., Thakchoe, J., Khechok, J., Lobsang, J., Tenzin, L., Gyaltsen, J., Moye, A. & Fresco, D. M., 21-Feb-2020, In : Mindfulness. 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  • Marieke K. van Vugt
  • Joshua Pollock
  • Bryce Johnson
  • Kalden Gyatso
  • Ngawang Norbu
  • Thabkhe Lodroe
  • Thupten Gyaltsen
  • Lobsang Phuntsok
  • Jampa Thakchoe
  • Jampa Khechok
  • Jampa Lobsang
  • Lobsang Tenzin
  • Jampa Gyaltsen
  • Amir Moye
  • David M. Fresco

Objectives Although mindfulness meditation is the familiar and researched form of mental training derived from Buddhism, it represents but one form of practice. Monastic debate is an interactive and dyadic analytical meditation practice that originates from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition where monastics seek to jointly deepen their understanding of complicated philosophical issues. To date, monastic debate and analytic meditation have yet to be examined in the context of scientific investigation. Methods In the current study, we examined the neural correlates of this analytical meditation practice by means of hyperscanning electroencephalography, a method well-suited for examining social interactions. Results Consistent with the idea that analytical meditation helps to train concentration, we observed that over the course of the debate, mid-frontal theta oscillations-a correlate of absorption-increased significantly. This increase was stronger for more experienced monks as compared with monks at the beginning of their education. In addition, we found evidence for increases in synchrony in frontal alpha oscillations between paired debaters during moments of agreement as compared with disagreement on a set of premises. Conclusions Together, these findings provide an initial understanding of Tibetan monastic debate and analytical meditation using neuroscientific methods.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21-Feb-2020


  • Hyperscanning, Monastic debate, Tibetan Buddhism, Meditation, Concentration, Analytical meditation, FRONTAL-MIDLINE-THETA, GAMMA-BAND ACTIVITY, ATTENTION, OSCILLATIONS, MEDITATION, EEG, CONNECTIVITY, MAINTENANCE, ENGAGEMENT, FREQUENCY

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