Mindfulness meditation helps the brain use more alpha rhythm or waves, which is helps “turn down the volume” on distracting information, helping us deal with an often-overstimulating world.
Meditators also show a greater ability to recall information faster. Researchers believe that the ability to quickly “screen out” mental noise, allows the working memory to search and find the information needed more quickly and efficiently.
“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, co-lead author of a recent report about the effect of meditation on the brain. “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.”
Brain cells use particular frequencies (or waves) to adjust the flow of information in our minds in much the same way that radio stations broadcast at specific frequencies. One frequency, the alpha rhythm, is particularly active in helping us process touch, sight and sound in the brain’s outmost layer (the cortex), where it helps to suppress irrelevant sensations.
Mindfulness meditation — in which practitioners direct nonjudgmental attention to their sensations, feelings and state of mind — has been associated with improved performance on attention-based tasks. The research team decided to investigate whether individuals trained in the practice also exhibited enhanced regulation of the timing and intensity of alpha rhythms.
Meditators, indeed, were able to control and induce alpha rhythms. Another benefit of this ability is that practitioners who can go into an alpha state through mediation feel less pain. People in chronic pain may be able to use less medication by meditating regularly.
One set of exercises on our 24 Hour Brain Gym at www.theamensolution.com is designed to help you move into a calmer state of mind through deep, slow breathing, which can produce these beneficial alpha waves. In a world that is full of information overload, it is a great way to spend ten minutes calming, focusing, and renewing your brain.
Catherine E. Kerr, Stephanie R. Jones, Qian Wan, Dominique L. Pritchett, Rachel H. Wasserman, Anna Wexler, Joel J. Villanueva, Jessica R. Shaw, Sara W. Lazar, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Ronnie Littenberg, Matti S. Hämäläinen, Christopher I. Moore. Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex. Brain Research Bulletin, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2011.03.026