More Evidence that Meditation Changes the Brain

Science is increasingly documenting how meditation makes positive changes in brain structure.

A study dealing with this topic was published on 4/8/12 in Frontiers in Cognition Magazine (http://www.frontiersin.org/Cognition/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116/abstract) and authored by Lorenza Calzato, Ayca Ozturk, and Bernhard Hommel of the Institute for Psychological Research and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, of Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands. This article, “Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused Attention and Open Monitoring  Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking”, points out that meditation has become quite popular in the Western world since the 1960s, and also notes that there has been a great deal of scientific interest. However, the authors feel that research dealing with the impacts of specific types of meditation has been lacking. This study attempts to bridge that gap by studying how these different methods may drive “specific cognitive-control states”. To be precise, the study worked to show the correlation between meditation and creativity. The two types of meditation studied were OM (open monitoring) meditation and FA (focused attention) meditation. Open Monitoring is a meditative experience which involves the non-reactive monitoring of the content of the experience from moment to moment, while focused attention involves one’s steady attention on one mental image.

 

The study, in the words of the authors, “…shows that FA meditation and OM meditation exerts specific effects on creativity. First, OM meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking which allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, FA meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem. We suggest that the enhancement of positive mood induced by meditating has boosted the effect in the first case and counteracted in the second case.”

 

Finally, a study published in the Proceedings of Graphic Interface, in May of 2012, (http://www.frontiersin.org/Cognition/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116/abstract) showed that meditation can help a person navigate better through distractions and therefore concentrate more completely. This article, “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multi-Tasking in a High Stress Information Environment”, was authored by three faculty members (Levy, Wobbrock, and Ostergren) of the University of Washington and by Kaszniak of the University of Arizona.  A total of 45 human resources managers were used in this study, with a third of them receiving 8 weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training, a third receiving 8 weeks of body relaxation training, and a third having no training at all. All participants were given a stressful multitasking test before and after the study period. The mindfulness meditation group performed significantly better on the test than the other 2 groups.

 

It is evident that meditation has far-reaching benefits which are only now becoming apparent. Getting into the “still space” improves the mind’s ability to function and to feel a broader range of positive feelings. This, in addition to the calmness and peace experienced while meditating, clearly show that a regular meditation practice can change one’s life in a positive manner.  One of the most common reasons given for not meditating is a lack of time. This is certainly a factor, as our lives seem to become more and more hectic and filled with things to do. However, given the extent of the benefits, it is clear that making the time to meditate will improve one’s sense of well-being to the extent that it may be well worth giving up something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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