Thursday, November 12, 2009

The dual-tasking meditation master

I recently read an article in the latest Scientific American Mind magazine discussing the cell mechanisms underlying meditative states. The author briefly mentioned the fact that expert meditators were able to avoid the attentional blink that lay people are prone to experiencing when barraged with rapidly presented visual stimuli.

This brought up a question for me. Would expert meditators perform better on dual-tasks compared to age-matched subjects?

I believe the answer is in the affirmative. My reasoning behind this hypothesis has to do with the fact that meditation not only strengthens attentional abilities, but fosters neural efficiency as well (dual-tasking is not about doing two things simultaneously, but more about doing one thing at a time at an extremely fast pace, thus creating an illusion as if one is doing two things at once). A 2007 study by Farb et. al has shown that meditation activates the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region central to switching your attention.

With the development of my dual-task paradigm underway I hope to prove that daily meditation practice can have beneficial effects when it comes to multi-tasking. If my prediction proves to be true, not only will this ancient practice developed thousands of years ago better our physical and emotional well-being, but assist us in keeping afloat in this fast pace era of "divided attention" as well.

Farb, N., Segal, Z., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., & Anderson, A. (2007). Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2 (4), 313-322 DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsm030

3 comments:

  1. lithen said...
    I'd be curious to see how "executive control" is affected by meditative states. I saw a reference to this recently, and it makes me wonder whether a meditator would tend to see each task as woven into one integrated task or whether they'd be just as susceptible to the same problems.

    November 10, 2009 10:21 AM
    William Lu said...
    Interesting thought, the task would perhaps seem to be interwoven to the expert meditator because brain processes were working so rapidly and efficiently.
    November 10, 2009 5:28 PM

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  2. RE: How meditation could affect dual-tasking!?

    This brought up a question for me: Would expert meditators perform better on dual-tasks compared to age-matched subjects?

    I think your project title should have had been reframed as referenced above, so as to avoid the testing of the dual-tasking capability of the dual-task experts with that of the expert meditators who may not have had trainings in dual-tasking!?

    Furthermore, as I argued in Neural Buddhists (TalkingPhilosophyUK; June 1, 2008) before, self-induced meditations (religious or otherwise) are no more special than the professional inventor Edison’s catnaps; and this brought up an even more interesting question -- if you’re interested in pursuing -- How meditation or catnap could affect dual-tasking!?

    Best wishes, Mong 11/12/9usct3:40p; practical science-philosophy critic; author "Decoding Scientism" and "Consciousness & the Subconscious" (works in progress since July 2007), Gods, Genes, Conscience (iUniverse; 2006) and Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now (blogging avidly since 2006).

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  3. Hey Mong, I really didn't think too much about the title. Just went with it because it simply sounded cool, although your title would be more fitting.

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