Meditation Appears to Boost Attention Span

Ability to make fine visual distinctions, sustain focus improved in study participants

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WEDNESDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- In research inspired by Buddhist monks, a new study has found that meditation can seemingly help increase a person's attention span.

The study included 60 people who had previously attended meditation retreats and were familiar with the practice. The researchers assigned half of the participants to study Buddhist meditation for three months at a retreat in Colorado, while the other half waited their turn and acted as a control group.

At three points during the retreat, participants took a computer test designed to measure their ability to make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention. As the meditation retreat progressed, the participants showed improvements in their ability to sustain visual attention. This improvement continued for five months after the retreat had ended, especially among those who continued to meditate every day, the study authors found.

"People may think meditation is something that makes you feel good, and going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That's what people think until they try it. Then you realize how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted," study author Katherine MacLean said in an Association for Psychological Science news release.

MacLean conducted the study while a graduate student at the University of California, Davis.

The study findings were published in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about meditation.

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