Tar Trek

Just a few days of meditation might be enough to boost attention and memory

Do you practice meditation to relax, alleviate depression, or restore feelings of inner peace? If so, you’ll be happy to hear about research out of UNC, Charlotte suggesting that brief meditative practice not only improves mood and alleviates anxiety, but also boosts certain aspects of cognition, such as attention and memory.

This finding comes from a study conducted in 2010 by researchers Fadel Zeidan of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Susan K. Johnson of the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Their paper is published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

To investigate how meditation affects cognition, the team of researchers recruited 49 students from UNC, Charlotte, none of which had any prior experience meditating, and divided them into two groups – an experimental meditation group and a no meditation control group.

Students in the experimental meditation group received meditation training based on basic Shamatha skills for 20 minutes a day for a total of 4 days. Meanwhile, students in the no meditation control group listened to an audio recording of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” over the same period of time (20 minutes a day for 4 days) and did not engage in any meditation.

In addition to administering several questionnaires to assess the participants’ mood, anxiety, and feelings of mindfulness, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests designed to measure attention and memory (see below for details). These cognitive tests were administered at two different times during the study – before training began on Day 1 and after training concluded on Day 4.

The question was simple. Would a mere 4 days of meditation training be enough to produce measurable improvements in attention and memory? Their findings suggest the answer is yes. (more…)

Tar Trek: A new series of posts about science in the “Tar Heel” State

Introducing Tar Trek, a new series of regular posts here on Charlottology dedicated to showcasing and promoting discussion of the latest scientific research going on across the “Tar Heel” State.

Below is a quick rundown on what you can expect to find in this new series…

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In each Tar Trek post, I’ll provide a brief overview of the methods and major findings of a scientific study that was carried out at a college or university in North Carolina. I’ll also offer a critique of each study, based on what I see as being the major strengths and weaknesses of the research and based on my assessment of how I think the research could be of practical, real-world importance.

I’ll kick things off shortly in the next few days with a review of a paper published in the field of Cognitive Psychology, given that this is my field of expertise. However, in future posts I hope to delve into other fields of science as my time and understanding of the material permits.

In full disclosure, I should make clear that until now I’ve rarely taken the time to read many scholarly articles that weren’t at least tangentially related to my field. As such, my summaries and critiques of studies from branches of science very far outside my field (e.g., Quantum Physics, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, etc.) might at times be somewhat superficial, at least as I’m starting out here.

Nonetheless, I’ll do my best to communicate all scientific findings as accurately as possible without making too many bone-headed mistakes. That said, I’m bound to get some things wrong when writing about areas of research with which I’m unfamiliar, so feel free to chime in with corrections if you know more about a topic than I do. After all, sharing and discussing the exciting research we have going on in our state is the ultimate goal here.

Stay tuned for more…