Study Finds Meditation Improves Controlled Attention

A study conducted in the US, the findings of which were recently published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, has found that meditation could improve our controlled attention abilities.


PsyPost shared the findings, noting that the research involved sending people on an intensive meditation retreat and monitoring their ability for controlled attention both before and after.


Study author Grant Shields, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas and director of the SCAN Lab, explained that a lot of his work has been related to “how stress and related factors influence cognitive processes”.


What he aimed to discover through this study focusing on meditation was “which interventions or factors might improve those same cognitive processes, and meditation is often suggested as something that improves executive function”.


For this particular piece of research, 60 participants were either randomly assigned to immediately attend a three-month meditation retreat or to go on a three-month waiting list as controls.


Participants were asked to complete a computer-based flanker test roughly five weeks after the start of the first retreat to test their ability to maintain focus.


What the researchers saw was that those who had participated in the meditation retreat were able to pay “significantly greater attention to goal-relevant information” than those who were part of the control group.


After the initial group had completed their meditation retreat, the control group were then sent on the same retreat and, when tested again five weeks in, their ability to maintain their focus on goal-relevant information had also improved in line with the first group.


Speaking to the news provider, Mr Shields said that the findings suggest that “meditation retreats focused on controlled meditative practices enhance the ‘top-down’ (e.g. voluntary) ability to control your attention”.


Another interesting finding from the study is that “immune system activity responsible for inflammation was inversely associated with this cognitive ability”, he added.


Mr Shields acknowledged that the study did not specifically examine which components of the intervention were responsible for the changes recorded, however he added that he would “guess it occurred due to meditative practice itself, rather than other aspects of the retreat”.


Meditation is certainly an activity that more and more of us have been embracing this year. Well+Good recently reported that, according to data released by FitBit, meditation activity among its users increased 2,900 per cent between March and September of this year, compared to 2019.


Given all that’s been going on in 2020, it’s little surprise that more of us have been looking for a way to calm our minds and regain some control.


Developing a regular meditation practice can have many benefits, especially when you use it in conjunction with other therapies such as hypnotherapy and mindfulness. Working with a mindful therapist online is a great way to develop a practice that’s beneficial for you.


You may also want to take the time to create a dedicated meditation space in your home, or at least have a few items that you can use to create a meditation space when you want to practice if you are limited on space.


Well+Good recommended having a meditation cushion to make it comfortable to sit on the floor for an extended period, as well as candles and even sacred texts or art to help create the right atmosphere.

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