Meditation can Change Minds

Richard Davidson, a top brain scientist, has conducted research on how meditation can change the way our brains function.

"Our data shows mental practice can induce long-lasting changes in the brain," said Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Just as an injured brain can adapt by mapping out new neuron pathways to accomplish tasks, "brain circuits (for) regulation of emotion and attention are malleable by the environment and are potential targets of training," he said.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery, Davidson showed that compassion meditation, even in short-term practitioners, induced significant changes in patterns of functional activity in the brain.

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Multitaskers bad at multitasking

In a study conducted by the BBC, people who routinely engaged in multi-tasking, such as using the internet, watching TV and using a mobile phone, consistently did worse on a series of tasks than those people who were low multi-taskers. Low multi-taskers were better at ignoring irrelevant material, had better working memory and were better able to switch between tasks. "The shocking discovery of this research is that [high multitaskers] are lousy at everything that's necessary for multitasking," Professor Nass said.

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Comparing Brief Stress Management Courses in a Community Sample: Mindfulness Skills and Progressive Relaxation

John D. Agee,, PhD1 , Sharon Danoff-Burg, PhD2, Christoffer A. Grant, MA2

In a study conducted by John d. Agee, PhD, Sharon Danoff-Burg, PhD, and Christoffer A. Grant, MA, a five-week mindfulness meditation (MM) course was compared to a five-week course that taught progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Forty-three adults from the community were randomly assigned to either MM (n = 19) or PMR (n = 24) courses. Mindfulness meditation participants practiced meditation significantly more often than PMR participants practiced relaxation during the intervention period. Interestingly, the two conditions did not differ significantly in their posttreatment levels of relaxation or mindfulness. Although there were no differences between groups on any of the primary outcome measures, across both treatment conditions there were statistically significant reductions from pretreatment to posttreatment in general psychological distress. Thus, although MM did not emerge as clearly superior to PMR, results of this study suggest that a brief mindfulness skills course may be effective for stress management.