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Meditation increases the depth of information processing and improves the allocation of attention in space.

van Leeuwen S, Singer W, Melloni L - Front Hum Neurosci (2012)

Bottom Line: Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level.Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction.In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Neurophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

ABSTRACT
During meditation, practitioners are required to center their attention on a specific object for extended periods of time. When their thoughts get diverted, they learn to quickly disengage from the distracter. We hypothesized that learning to respond to the dual demand of engaging attention on specific objects and disengaging quickly from distracters enhances the efficiency by which meditation practitioners can allocate attention. We tested this hypothesis in a global-to-local task while measuring electroencephalographic activity from a group of eight highly trained Buddhist monks and nuns and a group of eight age and education matched controls with no previous meditation experience. Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level. We expected to find a reduced global precedence effect in meditation practitioners but not in controls, reflecting that meditators can more quickly disengage their attention from the dominant global level. Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction. To investigate the underlying changes in brain activity and their time course, we analyzed event-related potentials. Meditators showed an enhanced ability to select the respective target level, as reflected by enhanced processing of target level information. In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3. Thus, meditators seem to display enhanced depth of processing. In addition, meditation altered the uptake of information such that meditators selected target level information earlier in the processing sequence than controls. In a longitudinal experiment, we could replicate the behavioral effects, suggesting that meditation modulates attention already after a 4-day meditation retreat. Together, these results suggest that practicing meditation enhances the speed with which attention can be allocated and relocated, thus increasing the depth of information processing and reducing response latency.

No MeSH data available.


Outline of the global-to-local paradigm and stimuli. A trial started with the presentation of a fixation cross lasting between 1 and 1.5 s followed by the presentation of one of eight possible stimuli displayed in (A). Subjects had to detect the target numbers 1 and 2 which appeared either at the global level or at the local level of the hierarchical stimulus and respond as quickly as possible via button press. They were instructed to press the “Z” key when the target 1 appeared and the “M” key when the target 2 appeared. The stimulus itself was presented for 100 ms and replaced by a blank shown until the subject responded via a button press. (B) Outline of a single trial.
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Figure 1: Outline of the global-to-local paradigm and stimuli. A trial started with the presentation of a fixation cross lasting between 1 and 1.5 s followed by the presentation of one of eight possible stimuli displayed in (A). Subjects had to detect the target numbers 1 and 2 which appeared either at the global level or at the local level of the hierarchical stimulus and respond as quickly as possible via button press. They were instructed to press the “Z” key when the target 1 appeared and the “M” key when the target 2 appeared. The stimulus itself was presented for 100 ms and replaced by a blank shown until the subject responded via a button press. (B) Outline of a single trial.

Mentions: E-Prime software (version 1.0.2) was used for stimulus presentation and response collection. Compound stimuli were used which consisted of a large number made up of small numbers. Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were used at both levels in eight different stimulus configurations shown in Figure 1A. Numbers 1 and 2 served as the target number, which could appear at the global or local level with equal probability. Numbers 3 and 4 served as neutral distracters and appeared at the global level if the target numbers appeared at the local level and vice versa. Stimuli were displayed in black at the center of the screen on a grey background. The global numbers subtended approximately 5.3° × 1.3°-2.3° of visual angle in the vertical and horizontal planes, respectively. The local stimuli occupied approximately 0.38° of visual angle. Subjects were seated 70 cm from a computer monitor in a darkened room.


Meditation increases the depth of information processing and improves the allocation of attention in space.

van Leeuwen S, Singer W, Melloni L - Front Hum Neurosci (2012)

Outline of the global-to-local paradigm and stimuli. A trial started with the presentation of a fixation cross lasting between 1 and 1.5 s followed by the presentation of one of eight possible stimuli displayed in (A). Subjects had to detect the target numbers 1 and 2 which appeared either at the global level or at the local level of the hierarchical stimulus and respond as quickly as possible via button press. They were instructed to press the “Z” key when the target 1 appeared and the “M” key when the target 2 appeared. The stimulus itself was presented for 100 ms and replaced by a blank shown until the subject responded via a button press. (B) Outline of a single trial.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3351800&req=5

Figure 1: Outline of the global-to-local paradigm and stimuli. A trial started with the presentation of a fixation cross lasting between 1 and 1.5 s followed by the presentation of one of eight possible stimuli displayed in (A). Subjects had to detect the target numbers 1 and 2 which appeared either at the global level or at the local level of the hierarchical stimulus and respond as quickly as possible via button press. They were instructed to press the “Z” key when the target 1 appeared and the “M” key when the target 2 appeared. The stimulus itself was presented for 100 ms and replaced by a blank shown until the subject responded via a button press. (B) Outline of a single trial.
Mentions: E-Prime software (version 1.0.2) was used for stimulus presentation and response collection. Compound stimuli were used which consisted of a large number made up of small numbers. Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were used at both levels in eight different stimulus configurations shown in Figure 1A. Numbers 1 and 2 served as the target number, which could appear at the global or local level with equal probability. Numbers 3 and 4 served as neutral distracters and appeared at the global level if the target numbers appeared at the local level and vice versa. Stimuli were displayed in black at the center of the screen on a grey background. The global numbers subtended approximately 5.3° × 1.3°-2.3° of visual angle in the vertical and horizontal planes, respectively. The local stimuli occupied approximately 0.38° of visual angle. Subjects were seated 70 cm from a computer monitor in a darkened room.

Bottom Line: Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level.Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction.In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Neurophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

ABSTRACT
During meditation, practitioners are required to center their attention on a specific object for extended periods of time. When their thoughts get diverted, they learn to quickly disengage from the distracter. We hypothesized that learning to respond to the dual demand of engaging attention on specific objects and disengaging quickly from distracters enhances the efficiency by which meditation practitioners can allocate attention. We tested this hypothesis in a global-to-local task while measuring electroencephalographic activity from a group of eight highly trained Buddhist monks and nuns and a group of eight age and education matched controls with no previous meditation experience. Specifically, we investigated the effect of attentional training on the global precedence effect, i.e., faster detection of targets on a global than on a local level. We expected to find a reduced global precedence effect in meditation practitioners but not in controls, reflecting that meditators can more quickly disengage their attention from the dominant global level. Analysis of reaction times confirmed this prediction. To investigate the underlying changes in brain activity and their time course, we analyzed event-related potentials. Meditators showed an enhanced ability to select the respective target level, as reflected by enhanced processing of target level information. In contrast with control group, which showed a local target selection effect only in the P1 and a global target selection effect in the P3 component, meditators showed effects of local information processing in the P1, N2, and P3 and of global processing for the N1, N2, and P3. Thus, meditators seem to display enhanced depth of processing. In addition, meditation altered the uptake of information such that meditators selected target level information earlier in the processing sequence than controls. In a longitudinal experiment, we could replicate the behavioral effects, suggesting that meditation modulates attention already after a 4-day meditation retreat. Together, these results suggest that practicing meditation enhances the speed with which attention can be allocated and relocated, thus increasing the depth of information processing and reducing response latency.

No MeSH data available.