Meditation is an exercise whose original records are found in the Upanishads of Hindu philosophy. They form a key aspect of many Asian religions and utilize several techniques to condition the human mind in such a manner that it attains mental clarity and emotional calm. These meditative methods in current times have found application in non-spiritual contexts like health and business.
Forms of meditation
Meditation is broadly split into two categories –open-monitoring and concentrative (focused) meditation. In the latter, the individual concentrates or fixates on a specific object in a bid to reach a condition of tranquility and focus while in the former, the practitioner pays consciousness to senses, thoughts, and emotions as they evolve in one’s body and mind. Focused meditation consists of concentration on taking breaths, a feeling or an idea, a chant, etc. Open-monitoring meditation methods include mindfulness and other awareness states. Some methods combine both kinds of meditation.
Several methods are employed during meditation. These methods are built on parameters such as frequency of meditation, posturing, use of prayer beads or other tools, and in some cases, striking the meditator.
Benefits of meditation
The benefits of meditation are a vital aspect of neurological inquiries. According to research, several benefits accrue from meditation. Examples include a fall in blood pressure, stress, and oxygen consumption. Meditation has found useful applications in several neuropsychiatric maladies such as depressive disorder, apprehension, stress, pain, and even treatment of drug addiction.
New research into meditation
A study from Michigan State University portends great benefits for individuals who have a knack for forgetfulness or are disposed to error. Published in the Brain Sciences, this research tried to verify how open-monitoring meditation as described above affects brain function in a manner that posits increased perception of error.
Jeff Lin, the study co-author at Michigan State University, and his co-authors carried out the study on over 200 persons that had, until then, never meditated to ascertain how they perceive and react to mistakes. The subjects were taken through 20-minute of open-monitoring meditation during which their brain action is measured with an electroencephalograph (EEG) and following a computerized distraction test. The EEG allowed them to measure neural activity just after errors and compare them with the right responses as it measures brain activity in milliseconds.
Their findings show that a certain neural activity called error positivity occurs about 0.5 seconds after a distraction. This, they posit is a form of sentient error cognition. In their result, in non-meditators, this signal is significantly lower in strength. In a statement by Moser, a co-author, the findings demonstrate how just a 20-minute meditation session can enhance the brain’s capacity to perceive and pay cognizance to errors.
Future research areas
Given the current wave of concern in the neuropsychiatric aspect of meditation, Lin believes that the ensuing levels of research should involve a larger group of subjects, assess other forms of meditating techniques, and ascertain if these changes found on the EEG can, in the long run, translate into a change in an individual’s behavior.
Meditation, an intrinsic part of several religions from the past is increasingly finding its way into non-religious contexts owing to its potential benefits. Research into this field of neuropsychiatry holds the key to unraveling the mysteries in this uncharted field of neuropsychiatry. Further research is required in the field as so much remains to be done.