An Advanced Meditator Encounters Synchrony Training

by Siegfried Othmer | July 17th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

During our trip to Dharamsala, India last September in order to conduct our training course at Men Tsee Khang, the Tibetan Medical Institute, we had the opportunity to encounter a long-term meditator who was interested in experiencing the synchrony training with Cygnet. The Venerable Thich Chi Thien had spent more than a decade in silent meditation, and during the course of those years he lost his fluency with the English language. For that reason, our communication with the Venerable was in Vietnamese with the help of Minh Chau Le, who had both inspired our journey and organized the whole adventure.

The Venerable had an opportunity to experience the 10-Hz synchrony training at parietal sites (15 min), and on the following day he experienced 40-Hz training at parietal sites, also for 15 minutes. He reported lingering effects of the 10-Hz synchrony, which appeared to deepen and extend his own meditative experience that evening. The 40-Hz exposure took him to 80% of his deepest state of meditation during the process. We did not get follow-up information because the Venerable had to depart right after the session.

It is unsurprising that the trained mind should respond to this feedback more dramatically than someone unschooled in the discipline. On the other hand, it was not to be assumed that an advanced meditator would necessarily react favorably to this kind of meditative assist. Swami Rama, who spent considerable time at the Menninger Foundation with Elmer and Alyce Green to allow his powers of physiological control to be documented, famously disdained the use of biofeedback instrumentation to aid in his own explorations. He did not need the help. At that point, however, the conversation was only about measures of peripheral physiology, not the EEG. This took place in 1970, when the Greens were just getting started with EEG training.

As it happens, we came to India exactly forty years after Elmer and Alyce Green journeyed there to document the extraordinary abilities of yogis to control their own physiology—1974. Of course this well-documented work made no impression whatsoever on the American medical community, and it has had no lasting impact on the psychology community either. On the other hand, the value of instrumentation support of physiological self-regulation did not come to be recognized in India either, in consequence of their missionary journey. In the perspective of forty years on, both cultures continued unperturbed in their accustomed ways.

The Venerable is now engaged in teaching as well as in trauma work. Among other activities, he organizes grieving ceremonies for the parents—both fathers and mothers—of aborted babies. These ceremonies mainly involve chanting, and they often lead participants into crisis. It was these crisis events that motivated the keen interest of the Venerable in what neurofeedback might have to offer such parents.

3 Responses to “An Advanced Meditator Encounters Synchrony Training”

  1. michael says:

    thank you dr. othmer for sharing this wonderful film.

  2. Siegfried, I noticed in the video that there was both visual and audio feedback going on. But with his eyes closed he was getting only the audio. Is your audio also a volume modulation? Some Zen practitioners do an eyes open meditation. Interesting that you do alpha and gamma synchrony on alternate days; do you ever do both on the same day?

    Checkout this new paper from the Schalk lab in Albany.

    “Cortical alpha activity predicts the confidence in an impending action”

    Best regards,


  3. The feedback is entirely audio. The visual image presented is simply a placid scene with possibly some subtle and slow changes reflected—wisps of smoke, ripples on a lake, etc. The audio feedback is multi-fold, including some use of volume to map information.

    We did the alpha and gamma training separately only for this investigative purpose.
    We wanted to get at the differential effects.
    In the ordinary course of events we may well combine alpha and gamma training in the same session.

    I haven’t checked out the paper yet, but thanks.

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