Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources.
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The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the so-called "attentional-blink" deficit: When two targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a rapid stream of events are presented in close temporal proximity, the second target is often not seen. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional resources. Here we show, using performance in an attentional-blink task and scalp-recorded brain potentials, that meditation, or mental training, affects the distribution of limited brain resources. Three months of intensive mental training resulted in a smaller attentional blink and reduced brain-resource allocation to the first target, as reflected by a smaller T1-elicited P3b, a brain-potential index of resource allocation. Furthermore, those individuals that showed the largest decrease in brain-resource allocation to T1 generally showed the greatest reduction in attentional-blink size. These observations provide novel support for the view that the ability to accurately identify T2 depends upon the efficient deployment of resources to T1. The results also demonstrate that mental training can result in increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources. Our study supports the idea that plasticity in brain and mental function exists throughout life and illustrates the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind.
Published Version (Please cite this version)
Slagter, Heleen A, Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L Greischar, Andrew D Francis, Sander Nieuwenhuis, James M Davis and Richard J Davidson (2007). Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PLoS biology, 5(6). p. e138. 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050138 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23701.
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Dr. James Davis is a practicing physician of Internal Medicine, and serves as the Medical Director for Duke Center for Smoking Cessation, Director of the Duke Smoking Cessation Program and Co-Director of the Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Credentialing Program. His research focuses on development of new pharmaceutical treatments for smoking cessation. He is principal investigator on several trials including a study on “adaptive” smoking cessation and several trials on new medications for smoking cessation. The new medications leverage more novel neurobiological mechanisms - NMDA receptor antagonism, nicotinic receptor antagonism, which impact addiction-based learning and cue response. Additionally, Dr. Davis serves as co-investigator on trials on lung cancer screening, e-cigarettes, minor nicotine alkaloids, imaging trials, lung function trials and others. Dr. Davis leads the Duke Smoke-Free Policy Initiative, is co-author on a national tobacco dependence treatment guideline, and provides training in tobacco dependence treatment for the Duke School of Medicine, Duke Internal Medicine, Family Practice and Psychiatry residency programs.
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