Study — Meditation can help train attention

In meditation, people sit quietly and concentrate on their breathing. As air swooshes in and out of their nostrils, they attend to each sensation. As unbidden thoughts flutter to mind, they let them go. Breathe. Let go. Breathe. Let go.

According to a study in the online edition of the journal PloS Biology, three months of rigorous training in this kind of meditation leads to a profound shift in how the brain allocates attention.

It appears that the ability to release thoughts that pop into the mind frees the brain to attend to more rapidly changing things and events in the world at large, said the study’s lead author, Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Expert meditators, he said, are better than other people at detecting such fast-changing stimuli, like emotional facial expressions.

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