Meditation stabilizes perception

Meditation can stabilize your perception. In a new study, Tibetan monks donned special helmets which fed conflicting images into the left and right eyes (“binocular rivalry”). Normally the brain fluctuates back and forth between the images. But during and after meditation, the monks were able to stabilize on one image or the other, or a combination.

This was the result reported by J. D. Pettigrew of the University of Queensland and other researchers in Meditation alters perceptual rivalry in Tibetan Buddhist monks, in correspondence recently published in Current Biology.

The light blue and dark blue bars in the graph above indicate the percentage of subjects where the “rivalry switch rate” either slowed down or stopped after (middle bar) and during (right bar) meditation.

This is intriguing research, but raises many additional questions which I hope the scientists will address in future research:

  1. Only 50% of the monks reported this phenomenon. Why?
  2. What governed which of the conflicting images the monks stabilized on? Some monks stablized on one, some on the other, and some on some combination.
  3. Why did the effect occur only with “one-point” meditation, focusing on a single object, and not with so-called “compassionate” meditation?
  4. What is the hypothesized mechanism? The authors merely note that focused styles of meditation have been associated with changes in neuroal activity in prefrontal regions of the cortex, which in turn have been implicated in sustained attentional rivalty.

The writers conclude:

This study offers an initial contribution towards increased understanding of the biological processes underlying meditation and rivalry, while additionally highlighting the synergistic potential for further exchange between practitioners of meditation and neuroscience in the common goal of understanding consciousness.

2 Responses to “Meditation stabilizes perception”

  1. Numenware, a blog about neurotheology » Blog Archive » 25 top neurotheology research topics Says:

    […] Meditation. What are the short- and long-term effects of meditation of brain function and structure? (How meditation improves brain function, Meditate and thicken your cortex, Two types of meditation, two types of brain patterns?, Meditation stabilizes perception) […]

  2. Meditation Classes, Semester 2, 2011 « Melbourne University Buddhist Studies Society Says:

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