Focused-attention meditation increases cognitive control during motor sequence performance: Evidence from the N2 cortical evoked potential

Russell W. Chan, Phillip M. Alday, Lena Zou-Williams, Kurt Lushington, Matthias Schlesewsky, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Maarten A. Immink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Previous work found that single-session focused attention meditation (FAM) enhanced motor sequence learning through increased cognitive control as a mechanistic action, although electrophysiological correlates of sequence learning performance following FAM were not investigated. We measured the persistent frontal N2 event-related potential (ERP) that is closely related to cognitive control processes and its ability to predict behavioural measures. Twenty-nine participants were randomised to one of three conditions reflecting the level of FAM experienced prior to a serial reaction time task (SRTT): 21 sessions of FAM (FAM21, N = 12), a single FAM session (FAM1, N = 9) or no preceding FAM control (Control, N = 8). Continuous 64-channel EEG were recorded during SRTT and N2 amplitudes for correct trials were extracted. Component amplitude, regions of interests, and behavioural outcomes were compared using mixed effects regression models between groups. FAM21 exhibited faster reaction time performances in majority of the learning blocks compared to FAM1 and Control. FAM21 also demonstrated a significantly more pronounced N2 over majority of anterior and central regions of interests during SRTT compared to the other groups. When N2 amplitudes were modelled against general learning performance, FAM21 showed the greatest rate of amplitude decline over anterior and central regions. The combined results suggest that FAM training provided greater cognitive control enhancement for improved general performance, and less pronounced effects for sequence-specific learning performance compared to the other groups. Importantly, FAM training facilitates dynamic modulation of cognitive control: lower levels of general learning performance was supported by greater levels of activation, whilst higher levels of general learning exhibited less activation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112536
Number of pages17
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Cognitive control
  • ERP
  • Meditation
  • N2
  • Sequence learning
  • Serial reaction time task


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