A study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, Center for Mind and Brain reported that gains in the ability to sustain attention developed through intensive meditation training are maintained up to seven years later. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.
The Shamatha Project examines the effects of two intensive meditation retreats held in 2007 at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. The study followed 60 experienced meditators who attended these 3-month meditation retreats and received ongoing instruction in meditation techniques. They attended group meditation sessions twice a day and engaged in individual practice for about 6 hours a day.
Immediately after the study, participants in the meditation retreat showed improvements in attention as well as in general psychological well-being and ability to cope with stress.
Since the retreats, the researchers have followed up with participants at 6 months, 18 months, and 7 years. The 40 participants who remained in the study all reported that they continued some form of meditation practice over the seven-year period, equivalent to about an hour a day on average.
The researchers reported that at least some of the gains in attention observed immediately after retreat were maintained seven years later, especially for older participants who maintained a more diligent meditation practice over the seven years. Compared to those who practiced less, these participants maintained cognitive gains and did not show typical patterns of age-related decline in sustained attention.
The study offers evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice can lead to improvement in sustained attention and response inhibition, which in turn may slow the cognitive decline as we age.
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Journal Reference: Anthony P. Zanesco, Brandon G. King, Katherine A. MacLean, Clifford D. Saron. Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s41465-018-0068-
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