Can meditation improve performance and reduce sleep debt ?

Raised of $5,300 Goal
Ended on 9/06/14
Campaign Ended
  • $440
  • 9%
  • Finished
    on 9/06/14

About This Project

Subjects in a previous study conducted by our group experienced a short-term performance boost after meditation. We seek to study long-term effects on performance by recording performance measures in subjects throughout the day. Using modern portable brain activity monitoring systems, we seek to delve into the mechanisms of interplay between meditation and sleep and how it affects performance

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What is the context of this research?

We study various aspects of sleep, meditation and performance in people, such as whether meditation might provide some of the restoration we normally associate with sleep. We are using a well-validated psychomotor vigilance test (essentially just reaction time) that accurately reflects underlying sleepiness or alertness.

Our data thus far suggest meditation can indeed boost performance, and in a way that appears to compensate or pay-off sleep debt. In this phase of the study, we want to know if the performance boost provided by meditation lasts through a full day. We are also interested to understand how sleep affects these performance measures in both well-rested and sleep-deprived individuals.

What is the significance of this project?

The proposed study provides an opportunity to study the effects of meditation on the brain. While validating our previous findings of short term performance boosts after meditation, this study adds to it by studying long term effects on performance and also delves into mechanisms by which the brain activity during meditation might be achieving this performance boost.

If a relationship between sleep and meditation with respect to performance is observed, the proposed study will pave the way for developing better models of brain activity in the future.

This study also provides an opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of modern brain telemetry systems in meditation and sleep research. These systems are now so inexpensive they can be purchased easily by any interested individual.

What are the goals of the project?

The main goal is to understand how the interplay between sleep and meditation affects performance through the day. We plan to:

  • Record performance measures in meditators and non-meditators to conduct a cross sectional study.
  • Record brain activity of long-term and short-term meditators during meditation and identify brain activity patterns correlating to performance measures.
  • Record sleep measures using activity tracking devices and study the interplay between sleep and meditation.
  • Develop mobile application for Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) for remote recording of performance measures.
  • Conduct survey using a simple questionnaire to understand how lifestyle parameters other than meditation affect performance.


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The majority of funds will be used for paying the subjects a modest fee. The participation incentive will be according to time and effort commitment. Another sizeable part of the budget is for acquiring portable EEG systems and activity tracking equipment. Part of the budget will be used in developing a mobile application for PVT for more widespread use. A smaller part will be used for travel expenses to specialized meditation centers to perform EEG and PVT recordings in experienced, long-term meditators. The travel and equipment funds will be leveraged with similar amounts from the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Biology.

Meet the Team

Bruce O'Hara
Bruce O'Hara
Shreyas Joshi
Shreyas Joshi

Team Bio

Received my PhD in 1988 from Johns Hopkins University in Human Genetics and later spent twelve years at the Stanford University Center for Sleep. There, I became interested in the interaction of sleep, meditation and performance, which I began to pursue more actively at the University of Kentucky as a Professor.

I grew up hearing great things about yoga and meditation, and even my football coach was a yogi, but few of these claims have been scientifically validated. We chose a well-validated reaction time measure, called the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, to show that meditation produces a highly significant improvement performance.

We are also interested in how meditation and sleep may interact, but our primary funding has been in my core areas of genomics, and we have not had any dedicated funds to pursue these very interesting questions. We received lots of public attention in the media with our prior studies, and we are excited to build on this work if we can obtain the resources.

Project Backers

  • 10Backers
  • 9%Funded
  • $440Total Donations
  • $44.00Average Donation
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