Meditation and Memory

The New York Times has an interesting article about how meditation may change the brain.

The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress…

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

The hippocampus is involved in the formation of new memories, and has to do with spatial memory which is what many memory techniques depend on.

There is a famous study about how London taxi drivers, who have to memorize a lot of spatial information, have larger hippocampi:

Structural MRIs of the brains of humans with extensive navigation experience, licensed London taxi drivers, were analyzed and compared with those of control subjects who did not drive taxis. The posterior hippocampi of taxi drivers were significantly larger relative to those of control subjects. A more anterior hippocampal region was larger in control subjects than in taxi drivers. Hippocampal volume correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver (positively in the posterior and negatively in the anterior hippocampus). These data are in accordance with the idea that the posterior hippocampus stores a spatial representation of the environment and can expand regionally to accommodate elaboration of this representation in people with a high dependence on navigational skills. It seems that there is a capacity for local plastic change in the structure of the healthy adult human brain in response to environmental demands.

One important role of the hippocampus is to facilitate spatial memory in the form of navigation (1). Increased hippocampal volume relative to brain and body size has been reported in small mammals and birds who engage in behavior requiring spatial memory, such as food storing…



Another study suggests that meditation may help increase attention. Here is the abstract from the study:

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.

Do you think regular meditation could help with memory? Has anyone tried it?

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    • Dominic O’Brien is a big proponent of relaxed, alpha wave states, for maximum memory functioning. He devotes a section to this subject in his audio program “Quantum Memory”. Biofeedback was big decades ago and you occasionally you hear about it and it seems so dated. But I now wonder if it is not like mnemonics, where persistence and refined technique can bring exceptional results.

    • I’ve heard that Dominic O’Brien uses something called a Brain Wave One machine:

      I would like to experiment with it if I’m ever able to find one…

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