Pavlovian-based neurofeedback enhances meta-awareness of mind-wandering

Issaku Kawashima*, Toru Nagahama, Hiroaki Kumano, Keiko Momose, Saori C. Tanaka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Absorption in mind-wandering (MW) may worsen our mood and can cause psychological disorders. Researchers indicate the possibility that meta-awareness of MW prevents these mal-effects and enhances favorable consequences of MW, such as boosting creativity; thus, meta-awareness has attracted psychological and clinical attention. However, few studies have investigated the nature of meta-awareness of MW, because there has been no method to isolate and operate this ability. Therefore, we propose a new approach to manipulate the ability of meta-awareness. We used Pavlovian conditioning, tying to it an occurrence of MW and a neutral tone sound inducing the meta-awareness of MW. To perform paired presentations of the unconditioned stimulus (neutral tone) and the conditioned stimulus (perception accompanying MW), we detected participants’ natural occurrence of MW via electroencephalogram and a machine-learning estimation method. The double-blinded randomized controlled trial with 37 participants found that a single 20-min conditioning session significantly increased the meta-awareness of MW as assessed by behavioral and neuroscientific measures. The core protocol of the proposed method is real-time feedback on participants’ neural information, and in that sense, we can refer to it as neurofeedback. However, there are some differences from typical neurofeedback protocols, and we discuss them in this paper. Our novel classical conditioning is expected to contribute to future research on the modulation effect of meta-awareness on MW.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
JournalNeural Networks
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan


  • EEG
  • Meta-awareness
  • Mind-wandering
  • Neurofeedback
  • Pavlovian conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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