Washington: A new study claims that mental focus can encourage learning mechanisms similar to physical training.
In the study, participants with many years of meditation practice, were scientifically escorted during a four-day Zen-retreat in the spiritual center ‘Benediktushof’, Germany. The retreat was held in complete silence, with at least eight hours of meditation per day.
All participants practiced their familiar meditation, which is characterized by a non-specific monitoring of thoughts and surroundings.
Additionally, some participants applied a special finger-meditation for two hours per day, during which they were asked to specifically focus on their right index finger and become aware of spontaneously arising sensory percepts in this finger.
An assessment of the group that practiced finger-meditation showed a significant improvement in tactile acuity of the right index and middle finger.
A control group that had maintained their familiar meditation practice for the whole time, showed no changes in tactile acuity.
The researchers measured the so-called ‘two-point discrimination threshold’. This marker indicates how far apart two stimuli need to be, in order to be discriminated as two separate sensations. After the finger meditation, the performance improved on average by 17 percent. By comparison, tactile acuity of the visually impaired is 15 to 25 percent above that of typical sighted individuals, because their sense of touch is used so intensively to make up for the reduced visual information.
Researcher Hubert Dinse said that the results of their study challenged what they knew about learning mechanisms in the brain, and added that mental activity seemed to induce learning effects similar to active stimulation and physical training.
The study is published in the Journal Scientific Reports. (ANI)