A study that evaluates whether improvements in attention span are maintained seven years after an intensive meditation training program concluded that regular meditation have long-lasting benefits on attention span and other cognitive abilities.
Sustained, prolonged attention demands effort and is prone to fatigue and lapses.
Meditation trainings have been shown to reduce lapses in attention that disrupt continuation of task performance. A number of studies have offered evidence that meditation may facilitate generalized improvements in attention span.
Studies of cognitive aging offer strong evidence that the ability to sustain attention is diminished in later life, and meditation practice have been shown to protect against age-related deficits in attention and executive function.
Researchers of this study have previously examined attention span of a group of meditation practitioners before, during, and after 3-months of full time meditation training.
In the present follow up study of the same participants, researchers assessed their levels of meditation practice during seven follow up years, and tested their cognitive abilities to determine whether they still maintain the attention improvements gained seven years ago.
All 40 participants who remained in the study after seven years reported some form of continued meditation practice: 85% attend at least one meditation retreat, and they practiced on average an hour a day for seven years.
Although attention ability did not improve further with continued meditation practice, the cognitive and attention improvements gained after the intensive training seven years ago were partially maintained. This was especially true for older participants who practiced a lot of meditation over the seven years.
Compared to those who practiced less, they were able to maintain the cognitive gains and did not show the typical patterns of age-related decline in sustained attention. Their findings were reported in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.
The researchers conclude that intensive and continued meditation is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention. They suggest that cognitive benefits of intensive mental training may persist over the long-term with continued practice.