Want to stay attentive in your old age? Start doing meditation. Regular and intensive sessions over the course of a lifetime may help you to stay focused and attentive even in advanced years, according to a new study.
“This study is the first to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition,” said lead author of the study Anthony Zanesco, now at the University of Miami.
“Meditation has the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across a person’s life,” Zanesco added.
The research evaluates the benefits that people gained after three months of full-time meditation training and whether these benefits are maintained seven years later.
This study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, follows up on previous work by the same group of researchers at the University of California in 2011.
The 2011 study assessed the cognitive abilities of a group of people who regularly meditated before and after they went on a three-month-long retreat.
After the first group’s initial retreat was over, the second group received similar intensive training.
As part of this study, follow-up assessments were conducted six months, 18 months and seven years after completion of the retreats.
During the last appraisal, participants were asked to estimate how much time over the course of seven years they had spent meditating outside of formal retreat settings, such as through daily or non-intensive practice.
The participants who had remained in the study all reported some form of continued meditation practice — 85 per cent attended at least one meditation retreat and they practised amounts on average that was comparable to an hour a day for seven years.
The participants again completed assessments designed to measure their reaction time and ability to pay attention to a task.