July 19, 2010
According to a recent study published in the July 2010 issue of Psychological Science Buddhist meditation can boost concentration skills. The study, conducted by psychologist Katherine A. MacLean, PhD, and associate researchers from the University of California, Davis, focused on a group of 60 participants with an average age of 49.
The participants were sent on three-month retreats where they studied meditation techniques with Buddhist scholar and co-researcher Alan Wallace, PhD, of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. All the participants had been on meditation retreats before, but this time they were taught to concentrate and asked to complete concentration tests. From WebMD:
At three points during the retreat, the volunteers took a 30-minute computer test, during which they watched the screen as lines of various lengths flashed randomly in front of them. Most lines were the same length, but sometimes a shorter one would appear.
Volunteers were instructed to respond by clicking the computer mouse when a shorter line appeared in a test to measure their visual attention span and their ability to make distinctions.
Researchers say that as meditation training progressed, the volunteers who received meditation training got better at spotting the short lines compared to those who didn't receive the training, suggesting it became easier to sustain attention.
Check out the ABC2 news' segment on the study:
Read Alan Wallace's Winter 2009 Tricycle article "Within You, Without You" on shamatha meditation and exploring the deep space of our minds.