David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain atten- tion. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behav- ioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.
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Fadel Zeidan, Susan K. Johnson, Bruce J. Diamond, Zhanna David & Paula Goolkasian (2010). Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognition: Evidence of Brief Mental Training☆. Consciousness and Cognition 19 (2):597-605.
Andrew B. Newberg, Nancy Wintering, Mark R. Waldman, Daniel Amen, Dharma S. Khalsa & Abass Alavi (2010). Cerebral Blood Flow Differences Between Long-Term Meditators and Non-Meditators. Consciousness and Cognition 19 (4):899-905.
Marieke K. van Vugt & Heleen A. Slagter (2014). Control Over Experience? Magnitude of the Attentional Blink Depends on Meditative State. Consciousness and Cognition 23:32-39.
Stephen Whitmarsh, Julia Uddén, Henk Barendregt & Karl Magnus Petersson (2013). Mindfulness Reduces Habitual Responding Based on Implicit Knowledge: Evidence From Artificial Grammar Learning. Consciousness and Cognition 22 (3):833-845.
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