No Place Like Om: Meditation training puts oomph into attention

10:56am, May 9, 2007

Intensive meditation training does more than foster inner peace and relaxation. Mental practice of this type boosts control over attention and expands a person's ability to notice rapidly presented items, at least during a laboratory test.

The new results demonstrate that mental resources devoted to attention can be amplified through mental training, say psychologist Richard J. Davidson of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and his colleagues.

Davidson's team studied a phenomenon known as the attentional blink. Because visual perception requires time and effort, paying close attention to one object flashed on a computer screen often causes a person to overlook a second object presented within the next half second. Scientists suspect that attention momentarily shuts down as the first image is perceived. During that attentional blink, the second image sneaks by unnoticed.

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