Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Boost your Attention with Meditation

Brain train­ing does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean com­put­er­ized games. For instance, medi­a­tion may be a great tool to train your brain.

Dif­fer­ent parts of the brain sup­port dif­fer­ent func­tions. One func­tion, cen­tral to many of our actions, is “atten­tion”. Atten­tion can be defined as the abil­i­ty to sus­tain con­cen­tra­tion on a par­tic­u­lar object, action, or thought.
It can also be defined as the abil­i­ty to man­age com­pet­ing demands in our environment.connections between neu­rons, die. In the brain it is sup­port­ed main­ly by neu­ronal net­works in the pari­etal (yel­low in the fig­ure) and frontal (blue in the fig­ure) lobes.

What can be done to main­tain and boost such a fun­da­men­tal abil­i­ty?

Dr. Andrew New­berg (Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Radi­ol­o­gy and Psy­chi­a­try at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia), here inter­viewed by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (CEO of Sharp­Brains) sug­gests that med­i­ta­tion may have cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits, espe­cial­ly relat­ed to atten­tion:

At its core, med­i­ta­tion is an active process that requires alert­ness and atten­tion, which explains why we often find increased brain activ­i­ty in frontal lobes dur­ing prac­tice. Usu­al­ly you need to focus on some­thing — a mantra, a visu­al or ver­bal prompt- while you mon­i­tor breath­ing.
A vari­ety of stud­ies have already shown the stress man­age­ment ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion, result­ing in what is often called Mind­ful­ness Based Stress Reduc­tion. What we are research­ing now is what are the cog­ni­tive — atten­tion, mem­o­ry- ben­e­fits? It is clear that mem­o­ry depends on atten­tion and the abil­i­ty to screen out dis­trac­tions — so we want to mea­sure the effect of med­i­ta­tion on the brain, both struc­tural­ly and func­tion­al­ly.”
(Read the full inter­view in The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness)

Exam­ples of such sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies are those by M. Pos­ner, a pio­neer researcher in the domain of atten­tion, cur­rent­ly an Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon.

A few years ago, Pos­ner and his col­leagues ran­dom­ly assigned par­tic­i­pants to either an Inte­gra­tive Body-Mind Train­ing (IBMT) or to a relax­ation train­ing. Both train­ings last­ed 5 days, 20min per day. IBMT is a med­i­ta­tion  tech­nique devel­oped in Chi­na in the 1990s. It stress­es a bal­anced state of  relax­ation while focus­ing atten­tion. Thought con­trol is achieved with the help  of a coach through pos­ture, relax­ation, body-mind har­mo­ny and bal­ance.

The  results of this study showed that after train­ing, par­tic­i­pants in the IBMT train­ing  group showed more improve­ment in a task mea­sur­ing atten­tion than the con­trol group. The IBMT train­ing also helped reduced cor­ti­sol lev­els caused by men­tal stress.

In a fol­low-up study the team found out that IBMT sub­jects in Chi­na had increased blood flow in the right ante­ri­or cin­gu­late cor­tex (a part of the frontal lobe) after receiv­ing train­ing for 20 min­utes a day over five days. This showed that med­i­ta­tion does indeed change the brain and thus its func­tion­ing.

In sum, med­i­ta­tion may be a poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful tool to train the brain. No com­put­er need­ed!

Relat­ed post: Mind­ful­ness and Med­i­ta­tion in Schools for Stress Man­age­ment

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

6 Responses

  1. Ahmed says:

    Awe­some! That’s a great study.

  2. Riz Lee says:

    such a val­ued and infor­ma­tive arti­cle Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon.. u done a great job.. regards

  3. Pascale says:

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the arti­cle.

  4. Sridhar says:

    Med­i­ta­tion is a very pow­er­ful tool to train the brain. You close your eyes and focus your atten­tion on an object in your mind for a peri­od of time. When­ev­er your atten­tion is divert­ed you bring it back. Med­i­ta­tion can be described as some kind of con­cen­tra­tion iso­met­rics. With con­stant prac­tice very high lev­els of abil­i­ty to con­cen­trate can be achieved.

  5. Phras­es such as “Stud­ies have shown/demonstrated/proven etc.” need to be adjust­ed or removed from releas­es relat­ed to ancient prac­tices (med­i­ta­tion, yoga, etc.). These prac­tices have nev­er required Sci­ence to prove any­thing, and have been self-evi­dent for a long time. The role of sci­ence mere­ly CONFIRMS the long-exist­ing, well-known facts to be what they’ve always been — FACTS.

    That said, I’m very grate­ful to Sci­ence in that it legit­imizes and makes digestible to the mass­es brain train­ing approach­es that have been seen as over­ly-eso­teric. Thank good­ness for our aca­d­e­m­ic war­riors on the research fron­tiers.

Leave a Reply

Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)