Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention

Author: Maclean KA, Ferrer E, Aichele SR, et al.
Dept of Psychology, University of California, Davis.
Conference/Journal: Psychol Sci.
Date published: 2010 May 11
Other: Word Count: 156

Abstract: The ability to focus one\'s attention underlies success in many everyday tasks, but voluntary atten-
tion cannot be sustained for extended periods of time. In the laboratory, sustained-attention failure is manifest as a de-
cline in perceptual sensitivity with increasing time on task, known as the vigilance decrement. We investigated im-
provements in sustained attention with training (~5 hr/day for 3 months), which consisted of meditation practice that
involved sustained selective attention on a chosen stimulus (e.g., the participant\'s breath). Participants were randomly
assigned either to receive training first (n = 30) or to serve as waiting-list controls and receive training second (n = 30).
Training produced improvements in visual discrimination that were linked to increases in perceptual sensitivity and
improved vigilance during sustained visual attention. Consistent with the resource model of vigilance, these results
suggest that perceptual improvements can reduce the resource demand imposed by target discrimination and thus make
it easier to sustain voluntary attention.