Antonella Pome' ; David C. Burr; Analisa Capuozzo; Paola Binda

Spontaneous pupillary oscillations increase during mindfulness meditation

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 18, 21 September 2020, Pages R1030-R1031


A significant body of literature has shown that pupil size varies with cognitive and perceptual states [1,2]. Furthermore, the pupil diameter oscillates spontaneously at low frequencies, sometimes referred to as pupillary hippus [3,4]. Oscillation amplitude varies with many neural factors, including arousal and cortical excitability. Here we show that pupillary oscillations are modulated by mindfulness meditation, increasing by 53% compared to pre- and post-meditation baselines. The effect occurs only in trained meditators and is specific for low frequencies (below 1 Hz), with delta frequencies (1–5 Hz) unchanged. The study suggests that pupil size may be a useful marker of the altered cortical state during meditation.