-- Randy Dotinga
MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
mindfulness meditation can help relieve pain and improve memory by
regulating a brain wave known as the alpha rhythm, which "turns
down the volume" on distractions.
In a small study, researchers found that those participants
using meditation were better able to modulate the waves -- when
they were told where to direct their attention -- after they
finished an eight-week course, compared to a control group that did
"Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall," study co-author Catherine Kerr, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release provided by Massachusetts General. "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."
The alpha rhythm plays a role in the cells that process senses
like touch, sight and sound in the brain's cortex. It helps the
brain ignore distractions, helping a person to focus while many
things are going on, the study authors said.
The findings "may explain reports that mindfulness meditation
decreases pain perception," Kerr added. "Enhanced ability to turn
the alpha rhythm up or down could give practitioners' greater
ability to regulate pain sensation."
The new research may also help explain how meditation might
affect basic brain function, said study co-author Stephanie Jones,
of the Martinos Center.
"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," she said in the news release.
The study was released online April 21 ahead of publication in
Brain Research Bulletin.
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