Meditation helps people make fewer mistakes, study says


For patients who are forgetful or make mistakes when in a hurry, meditation may help them become less error prone, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing and published in the journal Brain Sciences.

The study tested how open monitoring meditation, which focuses awareness on feelings, thoughts or sensations, as they unfold in one's mind and body, altered brain activity in a way that suggests increased error recognition.

Researchers led by Jeff Lin, psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author, recruited more than 200 participants to test how open monitoring meditation affected how people detect and respond to errors. The participants, who had never meditated before, were taken through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography (EEG). They then completed a computerized distraction test.

While the meditators didn't have immediate improvements to actual task performance, the researchers said the findings offer a promising window into the potential of sustained meditation.

Meditation and mindfulness have gained mainstream interest in recent years, however Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that take a neuroscientific approach to assessing their psychological and performance effects. Looking ahead, Lin said that the next phase of research will be to include a broader group of participants, test different forms of meditation, and determine whether changes in brain activity can translate to behavioral changes with more long-term practice.

"It's great to see the public's enthusiasm for mindfulness, but there's still plenty of work from a scientific perspective to be done to understand the benefits it can have, and equally importantly, how it actually works," Lin said. "It's time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens."