Thursday, May 07, 2009

Default Network, Meditation, and Focus Training

A recent study found that teaching children to focus improves their health outcome [ScienceDaily report]. In relation to the default network in the brain, perhaps one of the things that such early training does is to improve the individual's ability to regulate default network activity. DN activity has been linked to self-reflection, self-monitoring, day-dreaming, task-unrelated thoughts etc., and has often been seen to be negatively correlated to one's ability to perform a task. That is, the more you are able to disengage your default network, the better you can perform the task. This is presumably because your attention is more focused and not distracted by task-unrelated thoughts.

It is then not hard to see the link between DN activity regulation and meditation. Meditation is an act of self-regulation of thoughts, and has been related to several positive outcomes, in terms of physical and mental health and ability. If we apply to adolescence and aging, perhaps one form of training that would be extremely deterministic of cognitive efficacy in older adults is the amount of focus training experienced.

Likewise, if we were to train indivduals on how to focus their mental thoughts, and improve them over time, might brain activity be modulated? And subsequently, might cognitive abilities be improved or preserved better with age?

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