Brain Training

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…)