Navigation Links
Meditation may help the brain 'turn down the volume' on distractions

The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to "turn down the volume" on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.

"Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall," says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. "Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts."

Brain cells use particular frequencies or waves to regulate the flow of information in much the same way that radio stations broadcast at specific frequencies. One frequency, the alpha rhythm, is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight and sound in the brain's outmost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.

Previous studies have suggested that attention can be used to regulate the alpha rhythm and, in turn, sensory perception. When an individual anticipates a touch, sight or sound, the focusing of attention toward the expected stimulus induces a lower alpha wave height in cortical cells that would handle the expected sensation, which actually "turns up the volume" of those cells. At the same time the height of the alpha wave in cells that would handle irrelevant or distracting information increases, turning the volume in those regions down. Because mindfulness meditation in which practitioners direct nonjudgmental attention to their sensations, feelings and state of mind has been associated with improved performance on attention-based tasks, the research team decided to investigate whether individuals trained in the practice also exhibited enhanced regulation of the timing and intensity of alpha rhythms.

The study tested 12 healthy volunteers with no previous experience in meditation. Half completed the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program developed at the University of Massachusetts. The other half were asked not to engage in any type of meditation during the study period. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), an imaging technique that detects the location of brain activity with extreme precision, the researchers measured participants' alpha rhythms before, during and after the eight-week period. Specifically, they measured alpha rhythms in the brain area that processes signals from the left hand while participants were asked to direct their attention to either their left hand or left foot. Participants' abilities to adjust the alpha rhythm in cortical cells associated with the hand, depending on where their attention was directed, were recorded during the milliseconds immediately after they received an attention cue.

Although all participants had showed some attention-related alpha rhythm changes at the beginning of the study, at the end of the eight weeks, those who completed the mindfulness meditation training made faster and significantly more pronounced attention-based adjustments to the alpha rhythm than the non-meditators did. "This result may explain reports that mindfulness meditation decreases pain perception," says Kerr. "Enhanced ability to turn the alpha rhythm up or down could give practitioners' greater ability to regulate pain sensation."

The study also sheds light on how meditation may affect basic brain function, explains Stephanie Jones, PhD, of the Martinos Center, co-lead author of the paper. "Given what we know about how alpha waves arise from electrical currents in sensory cortical cells, these data suggest that mindfulness meditation practitioners can use the mind to enhance regulation of currents in targeted cortical cells. The implications extend far beyond meditation and give us clues about possible ways to help people better regulate a brain rhythm that is dysregulated in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions." Kerr is an instructor in Medicine and Jones an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS).


Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

Related medicine news :

1. Meditation Appears to Cause Changes in Brains Gray Matter
2. Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks
3. Zen Meditation Can Help Bring Pain Under Control
4. Positive psychological changes from meditation training linked to cellular health
5. Meditation Soothes MS Patients
6. Meditation reduces the emotional impact of pain
7. Guided Meditation Made Available to Everyone for Stress Awareness Month
8. UW Symposium: How Disease, Therapy, Drugs and Meditation Reshape the Brain
9. The American Meditation Institute Hosts Mind-Body Medicine Seminars by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Leonard Perlmutter and Dr. Beth Netter
10. Transcendental Meditation activates default mode network, the brains natural ground state
11. Tired of Snow, Sleet, and Stress? Join Deepak Chopra for a Week-Long Meditation Retreat this March in Florida's Warm Sunshine
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/28/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 28, 2015 , ... Pixel Film ... customizable media panels to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Users have full control ... With the ProPanel: Pulse masking effects, users are sure to get heads to turn. ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Denver, CO (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... U.S. cities are not changing the way that they are handling security in light ... increasing police and security presence in an attempt to stop an attack from reaching ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... were," said an inventor from Hillside, N.J. "Many people catch diseases simply from ... that individuals will always be protected from germs." , He developed the patent-pending ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... ... No.1 Herpes-only dating community in the world, revealed that over 50% of its members are ... people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the population - are infected ... HSV-1 infection . , "The data shocks us highly!" said Michelle Li, Co-Founder of ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 ... ... you start failing. Secura Consultants has prided itself for not only fulfilling the ... best income protection solutions at an affordable price and providing top-tier customer service. ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... Une nouvelle approche consistant ... contre le cancer avancé.    --> ... au traitement photodynamique au Bremachlorin contre le cancer ... nouvelle approche consistant à combiner l,immunothérapie au traitement ...    Clinical Cancer Research . ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ) ... "2016 Global Tumor Marker Testing Market: Supplier ... Segment Forecasts, Innovative Technologies, Instrumentation Review, Competitive ... offering. --> ) has ... Global Tumor Marker Testing Market: Supplier Shares ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 ... aanpak combineert immunotherapie met Bremachlorin-photodynamische therapie voor ... ) --> ... ) Uit ... Centrum (LUMC) blijkt ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: