The scientists we collaborated with to conduct our “Integrated Cancer Therapies” research on the effect of the Open Heart state on prostate cancer cells suggested that a fMRI be conducted to determine if the Open Heart state could be differentiated from mindfulness and resting states. 

Heart Based Institute proposed that the experience of the Open Heart state   is fundamentally different than the state of mindfulness.  Rather than the focus being on mindful awareness or the “here and now”, the emphasis of the Open Heart state is on experiencing peace, joy, and gratitude, effortlessly melting into boundless Unconditional Love through the practitioner’s heart connection to True Source, the Source of Love and the Creator of our true self.

In order to quantify potential differences of the Open Heart state, the research scientists elicited the help from their Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine to design and implement a preliminary study to compare brain functioning of three states of consciousness: the “Open Heart” state, the Mindfulness state and Resting state. 

Study Implementation

For the purpose of this experiment only one subject was used. The subject was well versed in mindfulness, having practiced and taught mindful practices for 25 years. The subject first learned Open Heart Meditation and experienced the Open Heart State in 2003 through Natural Way of Living.

fMRI can be used as a powerful imaging method for evaluating brain regional interactions based on the coherence (called “functional connectivity”) of fluctuations in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal of regions within the brain.1,2  The connectivity within default mode network (DMN) and between DMN and other brain networks such as salience network and dorsal attention network was assessed.  A graph theoretical analysis was utilized to explore the global network features in the three states.3  Such network analysis allows one to understand how the brain ‘rewires’ in different cognitive states.

The study was conducted using fMRI analysis using a 3T Siemens Prisma FIT Scanner (Siemens Medical Solutions; Erlangen, Germany) using a 64-channel head neck coil in three separate sessions.  In each session, the subject alternated between 3 different cognitive states: eye open resting state, eye open mindfulness state and eye open heart state in a randomized order. An fMRI measured the subject alternating between these three states and data from three rounds of each state was compiled.  The subject’s eyes remained open throughout the experiment.


Open Heart state induced by Heart Based Meditation displayed different brain functional interactions characterized by increased global efficiency compared to the state of mindfulness.

Significant state effect was observed in within default mode network (DMN) connectivity (F [2,2] = 281.48, p<0.0001) and connectivity between DMN and cerebellar regions (CB) (F [2,2] = 13.61, p = 0.016). Mindfulness (p < 0.0001) and open heart (p < 0.0001) states both showed decreased within DMN connectivity. Mindfulness (p = 0.041) and open heart (p = 0.016) states both showed increased DMN-CB connectivity. No significant difference was observed between mindfulness state and open heart state regarding to connectivity of DMN.

Significant state effect was observed in local efficiency (MLocEff), clustering coefficient (MClust), transitivity (Trans), characteristic path lengths (PathL) (MClust: F [2,2] = 20.54, p = 0.008; MLocEff: F [2,2] = 29.45, p = 0.004; Trans: F [2,2] = 31.32, p = 0.004; PathL: F [2,2] = 9.21, p = 0.032). MClust was significantly lower in open heart state comparing to resting state (p = 0.007) and mindfulness state (p = 0.028). MLocEff was significantly lower in open heart state comparing to resting state (p = 0.004) and mindfulness state (p = 0.019). Trans was significantly lower in both mindfulness state (p = 0.016) and open heart state (p = 0.003) comparing to resting state. PathL significantly decreased in only open heart state (p = 0.029) but not mindfulness state comparing to resting state. A trend of state effect was observed in global efficiency (GEff) (F [2,2] = 5.88, p = 0.065). Open heart state showed a trend of increased GEff comparing to resting state (p = 0.08).

MRI Study Resting/Mindfulness/Open Heart State
Averaged functional connectivity in fMRI pilot study among 8 brain regions showing Open Heart State as more integrated.


The preliminary data from the fMRI indicated that the open eyed open heart state shares some similarity with the open eyed mindfulness state in the aspect of DMN interactions. The observed alteration within DMN is consistent with a previous study that DMN activity is reduced during mindfulness meditation.4  However, results of the present study demonstrated an underlying difference between the mindfulness state and open heart state in regards to the global brain network organization. While transitivity was reduced in both the mindfulness state and the open heart state compared to resting state, clustering coefficient, characteristic path lengths and local efficiency were reduced only in the open heart state. A trend of increased global efficiency was also only observed in the open heart state. This indicates the brain may be less segregated and more integrated during the open eyed open heart state compared to open eyed resting state and the open eyed mindfulness state.

HBI purports that this increased global efficiency characterized by a state of enhanced brain integration during the open eyed open heart state is considered to be a natural way of being that results from heart-mind alignment. The goal of the open heart approach is learning to experience a ‘new normal’ in which peace, calm, joy and gratitude expressed through open heart field are generalized into all aspects of daily life.

Next Steps

It is important to note that this preliminary research is limited in that it was conducted with only one subject. Further studies with more subjects and with controls could be undertaken to further validate and expand upon these findings.

Please contact us if your institution is interested in collaborating with us to conduct additional research comparing Open Heart Meditation and other modalities.   


1:  Deco G, Ponce-Alvarez A, Mantini D, Romani GL, Hagmann P, Corbetta M: Resting-state functional connectivity emerges from structurally and dynamically shaped slow linear fluctuations. J Neurosci 2013, 33(27):11239-11252.

2:  Fox MD, Raichle ME: Spontaneous fluctuations in brain activity observed with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Nat Rev Neurosci 2007, 8(9):700-711.

3:  Sporns O: From simple graphs to the connectome: networks in neuroimaging. Neuroimage 2012, 62(2):881-886.

4:  Garrison KA, Zeffiro TA, Scheinost D, Constable RT, Brewer JA: Meditation leads to reduced default mode network activity beyond an active task. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 2015, 15(3):712-720.

To explore partnering with us on additional heart based research, please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!