Meditation app use promising, study finds

June 10, 2019

The practice of meditation seems unsuitable for the fast-paced, urban lifestyle, but regular sessions could lead to a better mind in the midst of daily muddles. An American research pilot using an experimental app that teaches its users to meditate was able to increase meditation time, attention span and working memory, the latter two being a necessary skill for people everywhere.

David Ziegler, lead author from the University of California, US, said the study points to a more personal approach to meditation with gratuitous paybacks.

Ziegler and his colleagues tested the new MediTrain app on a group of healthy 20-somethings. Those in the test group were first taught about meditation through a recorded set of instructions and were then told to use the app, which had the participants focus on their breathing without allowing their minds to wander.In-app instructions change the level of difficulty (extends/shortens time) depending on how a session was maintained, so, adjustments are essentially controlled by the user’s attention and focus.

Results were first unsurprising, as participants could only focus for an average of 20s on Day 1, but after 25 days of training, sessions averaged nearly six minutes. After six weeks, the MediTrain participants scored 20-35% higher on attention and memory tests compared to the control group who used a dummy app. The scores also varied with the length meditation – those who could focus the longest on their breathing did best on the tests.

Neuroscientist Layla Banihashemi, who is the Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has likened the app to weightlifting training, only it can build capacity for sustained attention in meditation.In prospective studies, the app might prove helpful for people with less mental ability, those with ADHD or the elderly.


Category: Education, Features

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