Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Meditation as brain training


You may be won­der­ing what med­i­ta­tion has to do with brain train­ing. In fact, med­i­ta­tion has been shown to improve spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions such as atten­tion. As such it can be con­sid­ered as a brain train­ing tech­nique.

A num­ber of stud­ies have com­pared peo­ple who prac­tice med­i­ta­tion to peo­ple who do not. The prob­lem with these stud­ies is that peo­ple in both groups can be very dif­fer­ent. Thus the ben­e­fits observed in the group prac­tic­ing med­i­ta­tion could be due to oth­er things.

Recent­ly, a more con­trolled study was con­duct­ed that showed a spe­cif­ic effect of med­i­ta­tion on atten­tion, one of the main brain func­tions described in Chap­ter 1. In this study, Pos­ner and his col­leagues (2007) ran­dom­ly assigned par­tic­i­pants to either an Inte­gra­tive Body-Mind Train­ing (IBMT) or to a relax­ation train­ing. Both train­ings last­ed 5 days, 20mn 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 exec­u­tive atten­tion than the con­trol group. The IBMT train­ing also helped reduced cor­ti­sol lev­els caused by men­tal stress.

Styles of med­i­ta­tion dif­fer. Some tech­nique use con­cen­tra­tion med­i­ta­tion, mantra, mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion, while oth­ers rely on body relax­ation, breath­ing prac­tice and men­tal imagery. It is not known so far what aspects of med­i­ta­tion or which tech­niques are the best to train one’s brain. Sci­en­tists are research­ing what ele­ments of med­i­ta­tion may help man­age stress and improve mem­o­ry. For instance, Dr. Andrew New­berg (whose inter­view can be found at the end of the present chap­ter) is cur­rent­ly con­duct­ing a study where 15 old­er adults with mem­o­ry prob­lems are prac­tic­ing Kir­tan Kriya med­i­ta­tion dur­ing 8 weeks. Pre­lim­i­nary results in terms of the impact on brain func­tions seem promis­ing.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewslet­ter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg.

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.