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Can meditation give your life a new direction?

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While it is believed that there is no aspect of life that cannot be improved by meditation, a study found that it could also help you to become less error-prone.

The research published in Brain Sciences tested how open-monitoring meditation – or, the meditation that focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or sensations as they unfold in one’s mind and body – altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.

“People’s interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits,” said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate, and study co-author.

“But it’s amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators,” added Lin.

The findings suggest that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects and Lin explained that there is little research about how open-monitoring meditation impacts error recognition.

“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open-monitoring meditation is a bit different,” Lin said.

“It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery,” explained Lin.

Lin and his MSU co-authors – William Eckerle, Ling Peng, and Jason Moser – recruited more than 200 participants to test how open-monitoring meditation affected how people detect and respond to errors.

The participants, who had never meditated before, were taken through a 20-minute open-monitoring meditation exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography or EEG.

Then, they completed a computerised distraction test.

“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Lin said.

“A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls,” added Lin.

While the meditators didn’t have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers’ findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.

“These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes,” Moser said.

“It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment,” continued Moser.

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