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TECHNOLOGY & SCIENCE
Research in the USA on Vipassana, an ancient Buddhist discipline. 40 minutes a day is enough. Developments for Adhd care.
Meditation "shapes" the brain thus reinforces the area of attention
by LUIGI BIGNAMI

ROMA - Three months of intense meditation can lead a person's mind to become so acute that he perceives details and facts of everyday life. Facts that, normally, it is almost impossible for us to grasp. It is as if the doors were opened in a much larger world than we are used to. According to an American study, this millennia-old discipline can really help to control and develop the mind of man and could give way to cure a problematic of the mind - which prevents a normal behavior and a regular concentration - known as Adhd (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which affects 3 to 5% of children.

Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin explains, neuroscientist who followed the research: "Some features of the mind that were believed to be absolutely immutable, can actually undergo profound mutations with continuous exercises. People know that exercise can increase one's abilities body, but now our research shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that with exercise it is also possible to increase mental capacity ".

Paying attention to the facts takes time and effort and since each of us has a limited mental capacity, most of the details of the phenomena that occur around us elude us. An example among many: if two images are shown simultaneously on a video, one of the two is not caught by the mind. The phenomenon is called "attention blindness". But the fact that occasionally the second image can also be grasped suggests that this can become a rule with a right exercise of the mind, which can be achieved with Indian meditation.

Davidson has convinced himself to investigate all this on the direct incitement of the Dalai Lama, a decade ago. Davidson explains: "Even though I have been practicing meditation for thirty years, only then did I realize that the time had come to study it from a scientific point of view. It must be said, in fact, that meditation is a method that facilitates the regulation of emotions and 'attention and you should not think that it is always something transcendental ".

Research has shown that people who spend an average of forty minutes of meditation a day thicken the areas of their brain dedicated to attention. "At this point I think it is necessary to open a new avenue of research on our brain, which we could call neuroplasticity. It should deal with the possibility that we have of changing the shape of the brain with mental exercise," explained Davidson.

The neuropsychiatrist has concentrated his research on Vipassana, which is the most ancient Buddhist meditation discipline, since it dates back to 2,500 years ago, and which has among its aims that of reducing mental distraction and increasing sensory capacities. Current research has focused on 17 volunteers who have agreed to dive for 10-12 hours a day in meditation for three months in a row. To these was added further research on 23 volunteers who received a meditation class which they then performed for 20 minutes a day for a week. Volunteers were then subjected to a large number of images on a video that appeared as flash. During this a series of electrodes followed the activity of the brain.

All this led to discover that the volunteers who had undergone intensive meditation were able to grasp a large number of information in a very short time, while the second category only partially succeeded and tests performed before undergoing meditation showed an almost total inability to capture the images proposed. The research was published in PLoS Biology.

Clifford Saron of the Center for the Study of Mind and Brain of the University of California (USA) explained: "Our life is a series of successive moments of" blindness of attention ", as it is more things that escape us of what we know how to grasp. If what Davidson has shown will prove to be true, an appropriate exercise of our mind can open a different world to us ".

But how to use this discovery for children afflicted with Adhd? "Certainly we cannot hypothesize to subject them to intensive meditation, but if we could understand how it acts on the brain, we could try to reach the same results by medical means". Over the next five years Davidson hopes to arrive at concrete results useful for adults and children.

(8 maggio 2007)
pubblicato on-line da la Repubblica.it: http://www.repubblica.it/2007/02/sezioni/scienza_e_tecnologia/cervello2/meditazione/meditazione.html


Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources

Heleen A. Slagter1, Antoine Lutz1, Lawrence L. Greischar1, Andrew D. Francis1, Sander Nieuwenhuis2, James M. Davis1, Richard J. Davidson1*
1 Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior and Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America, 2 Department of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the so-called ''attentional-blink'' deficit: When two targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a rapid stream of events are presented in close temporal proximity, the second target is often not seen. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional resources. Here we show, using performance in an attentional-blink task and scalp-recorded brain potentials, that meditation, or mental training, affects the distribution of limited brain resources. Three months of intensive mental training resulted in a smaller attentional blink and reduced brain-resource allocation to the first target, as reflected by a smaller T1-elicited P3b, a brain-potential index of resource allocation. Furthermore, those individuals that showed the largest decrease in brain-resource allocation to T1 generally showed the greatest reduction in attentional-blink size. These observations provide novel support for the view that the ability to accurately identify T2 depends upon the efficient deployment of resources to T1. The results also demonstrate that mental training can result in increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources. Our study supports the idea that plasticity in brain and mental function exists throughout life and illustrates the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind.

Citation: Slagter HA, Lutz A, Greischar LL, Francis AD, Nieuwenhuis S, et al. (2007) Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PLoS Biol 5(6): e138. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050138



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