Effects of Meditation on Cognition and Awareness
Narayanan Srinivasan, University of Allahabad
Meditation refers to a set of practices performed to train the mind. They differ in terms of the attentional/emotional processes involved in training. Two major types of meditation are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. I will give a brief introduction to different types of meditative practices. Recent years have seen a large number of studies investigating the effects of meditation on neural and cognitive processes as well as health. The talk will focus primarily on the effects of meditation on perception and attention. I will discuss experimental findings indicating that perceptual and attentional processes are enhanced among meditators compared to controls. For example, concentrative meditators show larger mis-match negativity amplitudes compared to non-meditators. Mindful meditators show reduced attentional blink, that is better ability to detect the second target appearing a rapid stream of visually presented stimuli. Practicing meditation leads to changes in the way they perceive the world. Recent studies in cognitive neuroscience have shown that attention plays a critical role in awareness. Studies on color afterimages have shown that more or less attention to adapting inducer leads to less or more stronger afterimages respectively. Given that meditators differ in terms of their attentional processes, a similar task was employed to study differences in visual awareness. The results showed that the duration of color afterimages were longer and sharper for concentrative meditators compared to non-meditators. Meditation practice not only leads to better perceptual performance but close leads to changes in visual awareness.