Research Results

Eleven years of collaborative research between Kalpataru and BM-Science

Up until now (2024) collaborative research effort between Kalpataru and BM-Science produced 17 scientific theoretical and experimental studies (see details below) that have been carried out within a neurophenomenological framework using the qEEG-based BrainMind Audit® (that measures the main parameters of brain activity and mental capacity) and the Self-Me-I index™ (that assesses the relative proportions of the three components of experiential Selfhood).

A wide range of conditions was studied, including healthy normotypical states, meditative/contemplative states, and altered and pathological states. Results demonstrated that baseline characteristics of brain activity (measured by the qEEG-based BrainMind Audit® and Self-Me-I index™) are indicative of individual’s neurophysiological type, personal trait tendencies and capacities, and future risks. Adjusting meditation/contemplative practices for a specific individual based on these baseline characteristics resulted in maximum positive effects and minimal risk of potential negative effects while optimizing brain and mind activity.

Based on the results, a three-dimensional construct model of complex experiential Selfhood was proposed. According to this model, three specific subnets (or modules) of the brain self-referential network (SRN) are responsible for the manifestation of three aspects/features of the subjective sense of Selfhood: (a) witnessing agency (“Self”), (b) body representational-emotional agency (“Me”), and (c) reflective/narrative agency (“I”). A causal relationship has been established between these three phenomenological aspects/features of experiential Selfhood and the functional state of brain’s SRN. This opens up a practical possibility of influencing brain activity through phenomenal aspects, and vice versa.

The neurophysiological and neurophenomenological differences and similarities between novice and experienced meditators were identified. These findings aid in objectively tracking the progression of novices to more experienced levels.

The use of a three-dimensional construct model for complex experiential Selfhood aided in identifying distinct neurophenomenological profiles of various altered states of consciousness in both healthy and pathological conditions. These distinct neurophenomenological profiles, once identified, can be modified and optimized.

Applying the three-component model of Selfhood to different clinical groups (major depressive disorder – MDD, post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD, and depersonalization disorder – DD) demonstrated that in addition to the traditional model of these disorders, the basis for pathology may be malfunctioning in the integrity of three operational modules in the self-referential brain network, resulting in differential alteration in three aspects of the normal structure of experiential Selfhood.

The results also showed that the functional state of Selfhood components parallels the clinically significant functional recovery and may provide prognostic information on a stable self-consciousness recovery up to six years after brain injury. Additionally, findings suggest that using knowledge about separate aspect of complex Selfhood (a) may help shed light on whether and which patients have full or minimal self-awareness, as well as which (or all) aspects of Selfhood are present, diminished or absent, and (b) will most likely aid in the development of more efficient and targeted rehabilitation programs for patients with brain trauma.

These results suggest that a three-component model of Selfhood may help in distinguishing consciousness from UN-consciousness, NON-consciousness, and SUB-consciousness, as well as establishing the potential (actual physical possibility) of Selfhood in unconscious/unresponsive patients. This knowledge may provide some hints as to whether the patient has the moral status of the kind and degree that is sufficient for personhood (in other words, be a subject of a life) or only to support some aspects of phenomenal self-experience, such as for example, embodiment (pleasure and pain).

Taken together, obtained results indicate that qEEG-based BrainMind Audit® and Self-Me-I index™ are beneficial for brain-mind well-being and clinical fields (see details below), by providing objective evaluation of current brain-mind status, helping personalization of training or intervention programs, and monitoring the progress of training, intervention or recovery process.


Brain-Mind Well-being research projects

Contemplative Self (6 studies of meditation)

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. EEG-guided meditation: A personalized approach. Journal of Physiology-Paris, 2015; 109(4-6): 180-190.

The possibility of meditation adverse effects warrants the suitability of any particular meditation practice for every given individual. This concern highlights the need for a personalized approach in the meditation practice adjusted for a concrete person. This can be done by using an objective screening procedure that detects the weak and strong aspects of brain functioning, thus helping design a tailored meditation training protocol. Quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) is a suitable tool that allows identification of individual neurophysiological types. Using qEEG screening can aid developing a meditation training program that maximizes results and minimizes risk of potential negative effects. This brief theoretical–conceptual review provides a discussion of the problem and presents some illustrative results on the usage of qEEG screening for the guidance of mediation personalization.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. Long-term meditation training induced changes in the operational synchrony of default mode network modules during a resting state. Cognitive Processing, 2016; 17: 27–37.

Using theoretical analysis of self-consciousness concept and experimental evidence on the brain default mode network (DMN) that constitutes the neural signature of self-referential processes, we demonstrated that while the whole DMN was clearly suppressed, different subnets of DMN responded differently after 4 months of meditation training: The strength of EEG operational synchrony in the right and left posterior modules of the DMN decreased in resting post-meditation condition compared to a pre-meditation condition, whereas the frontal DMN module on the contrary exhibited an increase in the strength of EEG operational synchrony. These findings combined with published data on functional–anatomic heterogeneity within the DMN and on trait subjective experiences commonly found following meditation allow us to propose that the first-person perspective and the sense of agency (the witnessing observer) are presented by the frontal DMN module, while the posterior modules of the DMN are generally responsible for the experience of the continuity of ‘I’ as embodied
and localized within bodily space.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. Trait lasting alteration of the brain default mode network in experienced meditators and the experiential selfhood. Self and Identity, 2016; 15(4): 381–393.

Based on the finding in novices that four months of meditation training significantly increases frontal default mode network (DMN) module/subnet synchrony while decreasing left and right posterior DMN modules synchrony, the current study tested the prediction whether experienced meditators (those who are practicing meditation intensively for several years) had a change in the DMN “trinity” of modules as a baseline trait characteristic and whether this change is in a similar direction as in the novice trainees who practiced meditation for only four months. Comparison of functional connectivity within DMN subnets (measured by electroencephalogram operational synchrony in the three separate DMN modules) between five experienced meditators and 10 naïve participants (who were about to start the meditation training) fully support the prediction.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. Selfhood triumvirate: From phenomenology to brain activity and back again. Consciousness and Cognition, 2020; 86: 103031.

In this study we approached the question of causality by exploring functional integrity within the three SRN modules that are thought to underlie the three phenomenal components of Selfhood while these components were manipulated mentally by experienced meditators in a controlled and independent manner. Participants were requested, in a block-randomized manner, to mentally induce states representing either increased (up-regulation) or decreased (down-regulation) sense of (a) witnessing agency (“Self”), or (b) body representational-emotional agency (“Me”), or (c) reflective/narrative agency (“I”), while their brain activity was recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG). This EEG-data was complemented by first-person phenomenological reports and standardized questionnaires which focused on subjective contents of three aspects of Selfhood. The results of the study strengthen the case for a direct causative relationship between three phenomenological aspects of Selfhood and related to them three modules of the brain SRN.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. Self, Me and I in the repertoire of spontaneously occurring altered states of Selfhood: eight neurophenomenological case study reports. Cognitive Neurodynamics, 2022; 16: 255–282.

This study investigates eight case reports of spontaneously emerging, brief episodes of vivid altered states of Selfhood (ASoSs) that occurred during mental exercise in six long-term meditators by using a neurophenomenological electroencephalography (EEG) approach. In agreement with the neurophenomenological methodology, first-person reports were used to identify such spontaneous ASoSs and to guide the neural analysis, which involved the estimation of three operational modules of the brain self-referential network (measured by EEG operational synchrony). The result of such analysis demonstrated that the documented ASoSs had unique neurophenomenological profiles, where several aspects or components of Selfhood (measured neurophysiologically and phenomenologically) are affected and expressed differently, but still in agreement with the neurophysiological three-dimensional construct model of the complex experiential Selfhood proposed in our earlier work.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Kallio-Tamminen T. The Selfhood-Components Dynamics in the Spectrum of Discrete Normotypical and Pathological Modes. Journal of NeuroPhilosophy 2023; 2(2): 402-431.

In this first-of-its-kind neurophenomenological study we investigated the dynamic configuration and the levels of variability of the “Self”-, “Me”-, and “I”- components that comprise a complex experiential Selfhood across 16 distinct modes covering a range of healthy-normal, altered, and pathological brain states. The phenomenology was addressed by examining the mental structures of subjective self-experience, and for the neurophysiological counterpart, we used electroencephalogram analysis to gather data on three subnets of the self-referential brain network that correspond to the three components of Selfhood. This methodological approach allowed us to uncover peculiarities and generalities in the dynamic of the Selfhood triad across a wide range of modes that could not be seen in a single study. We showed that any given Selfhood state is determined by varying proportions of “Self”, “Me”, and “I”-components depending on the phenomenological manifestation of a particular mode. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the “Self”-component has more leeway in expressing various pathological modes while having a very narrow window for variance in norm. The “I”-component, on the other hand, exhibits the opposite tendency, with a wide range of normal modes and only a narrow window for true pathological expression. Finally, the “Me”-component expresses a position intermediate between the “Self”- and “I”-components (though closer to the “I”-component). The findings are discussed with an emphasis on their theoretical, conceptual, philosophical, and clinical implications.

Self in QiGong and respiration (2 unpublished studies on Brain QiGong and Mindful Breathing Ujjayi Pranayama)

Fingelkurts Al.A., Fingelkurts An.A., Kallio-Tamminen T., Hallenberg H., Rautaparta M.

Results demonstrated that both Brain QiGong and Ujjayi Pranayama trainings have not only a protective effect against stress, but also improve and optimize brain activity and mind capacity. However, negative life events may diminish the positive effects.

Leadership neuro-coaching (1 study)

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A., Neves C.F.H. Neuro-assessment of leadership training. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 2020; 13(2): 107-145. 

The present study proposed to employ the neuro-screening measure to develop and monitor an individually tailored coaching intervention for training senior-managers’ inspirational leadership. We have used the quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) screening to build the individual profiles of every coachee to assess their baseline (trait) characteristics in order to develop the coaching interventions to enhance effective and minimize ineffective behaviour. The qEEG-screening profile resulted in nine metrics characterizing different traits and features of every coachee. Based on these profiles individualized 4-month coaching programmes were suggested to coachees. The results indicated that participation in the individually designed 4-month coaching programme was associated with significant improvement (70.7%) or optimization (55.6%) of metrics in the 71.7% of coachees. This was paralleled by reduced scores in independent Beck Anxiety Inventory and Beck Depression Inventory scales. We concluded that the employment of qEEG-screening profiling allows coaches and trainers to assess deep dynamic neurological mechanisms that underpin baseline traits and features essential for effective, flexible and sustainable leadership, as well as track their development over time.

Clinical research projects

Unconscious Self (4 studies of unresponsive/vegetative state after severe traumatic brain injury)

Fingelkurts Al.A., Fingelkurts An.A., Bagnato S., Boccagni C., Galardi G. The Chief Role of Frontal Operational Module of the Brain Default Mode Network in the Potential Recovery of Consciousness from the Vegetative State: A Preliminary Comparison of Three Case Reports. The Open Neuroimaging Journal, 2016; 10, (Suppl-1, M4): 41-51.

Recent discovery of heterogeneity between distinct subnets (or operational modules - OMs) of the DMN leads to a reconceptualization of its role for the experiential sense of self. Considering the recent proposition that the frontal DMN OM is responsible for the first-person perspective and the sense of agency, while the posterior DMN OMs are linked to the continuity of ‘I’ experience (including autobiographical memories) through embodiment and localization within bodily space, we have tested in this study the hypothesis that heterogeneity in the operational synchrony strength within the frontal DMN OM among patients who are in a vegetative state (VS) could inform about a stable self-consciousness recovery later in the course of disease (up to six years post-injury). Using EEG operational synchrony analysis, we have demonstrated that among the three OMs of the DMN only the frontal OM showed important heterogeneity in VS patients as a function of later stable clinical outcome. We also found that the frontal DMN OM was characterized by the process of active uncoupling (stronger in persistent VS) of operations performed by the involved neuronal assemblies.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Longitudinal Dynamics of 3-Dimensional Components of Selfhood After Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: A qEEG Case Study. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, 2017; 48(5): 327-337.

We describe the case of a patient who sustained extremely severe traumatic brain damage with diffuse axonal injury in a traffic accident and whose recovery was monitored during 6 years. Specifically, we were interested in the recovery dynamics of 3-dimensional components of selfhood derived from the electroencephalographic (EEG) signal. The analysis revealed progressive (though not monotonous) restoration of EEG functional connectivity of 3 modules of brain functional network responsible for the self-consciousness processing, which was also paralleled by the clinically significant functional recovery. We propose that restoration of normal integrity of the operational modules of the self-referential brain network may underlie the positive dynamics of 3 aspects of selfhood and provide a neurobiological mechanism for their recovery. Studies of ongoing recovery after severe brain injury utilizing knowledge about each separate aspect of complex selfhood will likely help to develop more efficient and targeted rehabilitation programs for patients with brain trauma.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Contemplating on the Nature of Selfhood in DoC Patients: Neurophenomenological Perspective. J. Integr. Neurosci. 2023; 22(1): 23.

Medical well-regarded policy recommendations for patients with disorders of consciousness (DoC) are almost exclusively relied on behavioural examination and evaluation of higher-order cognition, and largely disregard the patients’ self. This is so because practically establishing the presence of self-awareness or Selfhood is even more challenging than evaluating the presence of consciousness. At the same time, establishing the potential (actual physical possibility) of Selfhood in DoC patients is crucially important from clinical, ethical, and moral standpoints because Selfhood is the most central and private evidence of being an independent and free agent that unites intention, embodiment, executive functions, attention, general intelligence, emotions and other components within the intra-subjective frame (first-person givenness). The importance of Selfhood is supported further by the observation that rebooting of self-awareness is the first step to recovery after brain damage. It seems that complex experiential Selfhood can be plausibly conceptualized within the Operational Architectonics (OA) of brain-mind functioning and reliably measured by quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) operational synchrony.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Patients with Disorders of Consciousness: Are They Nonconscious, Unconscious, or Subconscious? Expanding the Discussion. Brain Sci. 2023; 13: 814.

Unprecedented advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with disorders of consciousness (DoC) have given rise to ethical questions about how to recognize and respect autonomy and a sense of agency of the personhood when those capacities are themselves disordered,
as they typically are in patients with DoC. At the intersection of these questions rests the distinction
between consciousness and unconsciousness. Indeed, evaluations of consciousness levels and capacity for recovery have a significant impact on decisions regarding whether to discontinue or prolong life-sustaining therapy for DoC patients. However, in the unconsciousness domain, there is the confusing array of terms that are regularly used interchangeably, making it quite challenging to comprehend what unconsciousness is and how it might be empirically grounded. In this opinion paper, we will provide a brief overview of the state of the field of unconsciousness and show how a rapidly evolving electroencephalogram (EEG) neuroimaging technique may offer empirical, theoretical, and practical tools to approach unconsciousness and to improve our ability to distinguish consciousness from unconsciousness and also nonconsciousness with greater precision, particularly in cases that are borderline (as is typical in patients with DoC). Furthermore, we will provide a clear description of three distant notions of (un)consciousness (unconsciousness, nonconsciousness, and subconsciousness) and discuss how they relate to the experiential selfhood which is essential for comprehending the moral significance of what makes life worth living.

Depressed Self (1 study of patients with major depressive disorder – MDD)

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Three-dimensional components of selfhood in treatment-naive patients with major depressive disorder: A resting-state qEEG imaging study. Neuropsychologia, 2017; 99: 30–36.

Based on previous studies implicating increased functional connectivity within the self-referential brain network in major depressive disorder (MDD), and considering the functional roles of three distinct modules of such brain net (responsible for three-dimensional components of Selfhood) together with the documented abnormalities of self-related processing in MDD, we tested the hypothesis that patients with depression would exhibit increased connectivity within each module of the self-referential brain network and that the strength of these connections would correlate positively with depression severity. Applying the electroencephalogram (EEG) operational synchrony analysis to extract three modules of the self-referential brain network in 12 medication-free depressive outpatients and 10 control subjects we have found an increase in the strength of EEG synchrony within all three modules in depressive patients (though non-significant for the right module). Furthermore, multiple regression analysis that used 3 factors (values of synchrony strength for all three modules) as input indicated that combined increase in the strength of synchrony in all three modules was positively associated with severity of depression. Taken together the findings of this study suggest that depression is primarily associated with hypersynchrony in all three modules of the brain self-referential network (the anterior module been responsible for “witnessing observation and first–person perspective”, the left posterior module been responsible for “reflective agency and narration” and the right posterior module been responsible for “bodily representational-emotional agency”), thus contributing to excessive self-focus, rumination, and body tension.

Traumatized Self (2 studies of patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD)

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Alterations in the Three Components of Selfhood in Persons with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Pilot qEEG Neuroimaging Study. The Open Neuroimaging Journal, 2018; 12: 42-54.

Results indicate that subjects with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms had significantly stronger EEG operational synchrony within anterior and right posterior Operational Modules (OMs) as well as significantly weaker EEG operational synchrony within left posterior OM compared to healthy controls. Moreover, increased the functional integrity of the anterior OM was positively associated with hyperactivity symptoms, reduced synchrony of the left posterior OM was associated with greater avoidance, and increased right posterior OM integrity was positively correlated with intrusion and mood symptoms. Clinically, this study suggests that in addition to the traditional model of altered fronto-limbic connectivity, the basis for PTSD may be malfunctioning in the integrity of three operational modules in the self-referential brain network resulting in an alteration in three aspects of the normal structure of self. The study describes distinct contributions (related to three major aspects of selfhood: first-person agency, representational-emotional agency, and reflective/narrative agency) that every module of the self-referential brain network makes to PTSD.

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder from the perspective of three-dimensional model of the experiential selfhood. Medical Hypotheses, 2019; 131: 109304.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is included in many international trauma treatment guidelines and is also shortlisted as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, its neurobiological mechanisms have not yet been fully understood. In this brief article we propose a hypothesis that a recently introduced neurophysiologically based three-dimensional construct model for experiential selfhood may help to fill this gap by providing the necessary neurobiological rationale of EMDR. In support of this proposal, we briefly overview the neurophysiology of eye movements and the triad selfhood components, as well as EMDR therapy neuroimaging studies.

Depersonalize Self (1 study of patient with depersonalization disorder – DD)

Fingelkurts An.A., Fingelkurts Al.A. Depersonalization Puzzle: A New View from the Neurophenomenological Selfhood Perspective. Journal of NeuroPhilosophy 2022; 1(2): 181-202.

In the present study we explored the neurophenomenology of Selfhood in a newly diagnosed and untreated 29-year-old female who suffers from depersonalization disorder (DD). According to the triad model of Selfhood, three major components of Selfhood (phenomenal first-person agency – “Self”, embodiment – “Me”, and reflection/narration – “I”) are related to three operational modules (OMs) of the self-referential brain network (reliably estimated by electroencephalogram operational synchrony analysis). We have found that subject with DD exhibited a strong enhancement of functional integrity of the brain Self-module, a moderate decrease in the functional integrity of Me-module, and a pronounced decrease in the functional integrity of I-module, – all of which were associated with severity of specific DD symptoms.


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