New York Times, “M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.”
Meditation’s Effects on the Body, Mind and Spirit, Huffington Post
Harvard Gazette: Meditation’s positive residual effects
A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. In their report in the November issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, investigators at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston University (BU), and several other research centers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.
And for those of you who want a full-scale research paper…..
The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment
Multitasking is a widespread phenomenon in today’s information-saturated world, and there is considerable concern about its negative consequences for both personal health and effectiveness. This has resulted in strong requests for guidance and understanding from parents, educators, employers, and workers.
Prior studies (e.g., ) have demonstrated that 8 weeks of meditation training increases self-reported daily mindfulness. We found that the meditation group, but not the relaxation or the waitlist group, reported significantly greater mindful awareness and attention after meditation training. The waitlist group actually reported a decrease in mindfulness during the wait period, but following meditation training showed a non-significant trend toward greater mindfulness.
We found that those in the meditation group (but not those in the other two groups) showed greater time on task and a reduced number of task-switches post-training as compared with pre- training. This appears to be an implicit effect of the meditation training, since participants were never explicitly instructed during meditation training to shift their attention less often.
To what might this result be attributed? We conjecture that if one’s ability to concentrate is weak, then one may be more likely to respond to each new interruption immediately. But focused attention (FA) training appears to strengthen one’s ability to notice interruptions without necessarily relinquishing one’s current task. Having such skill might therefore give users the choice to stay with the current task longer, rather than responding to each interruption immediately.
Memory for Task
The meditators also showed improved memory for the details of the work they were doing in the post-training multitasking test compared to their performance in the pre-training test, as did those in the relaxation group. Participants in the waitlist control group showed no such improvement; however, once they received the meditation training, they also demonstrated improved memory.
To what might this improved memory be attributed? We conjecture that it was the result of reduced stress. Laboratory studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between increased stress and reduced memory .
It is noteworthy that none of the groups showed post-training improvement in overall accuracy or speed, other than a practice effect (i.e., participants in all three groups took less time to complete the entire test in the post-training or post-waiting assessment, compared to that before the training). Further work will have to determine whether this is a generalizable result or a result specific to our particular experiment and test design.
Positive and Negative Affect
All participants found the test stressful, as intended. But in addition, for the meditation-training group after training, there was less negative mood (especially after task performance) and fatigue following the training. (The waitlist and relaxation groups showed no significant decrease.)
Are you ready to experience these benefits directly?
If you’d like to attend one of the Mindfulness Training/Guided Meditation Journey’s I offer at Flywheel and Unity in Winston-Salem, NC on the first Mondays and Tuesday of each month during the lunch hour read this blog post for details.