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Mindful : August 2013
Research Roundup Listen up, college preppers: meditation may help boost SAT and GRE scores. Researchers from the Uni- versity of California–Santa Barbara recently wondered whether reducing mind wandering could improve per- formance on standardized tests. They found evidence it does. After a group of undergraduates went through a two-week intensive mindfulness training program— which included practices to reduce distractedness and improve working-memor y capacity—they per formed better on the verbal-reasoning section of the GRE. 1 Focusing on the present can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, say researchers from the UC–Davis Center for Mind and Brain. Volunteers filled out mindful- ness questionnaires before and after a three-month meditation retreat, while researchers com- pared the cor tisol levels in their saliva. People whose mindfulness score increased during the retreat showed a decrease in cortisol levels. 3 Talking on a hands-free phone in a car while doing a task as simple as making a left turn may be more dangerous than previously thought. Researchers studying drivers’ MRI scans reported that “the dis- tracted brain sacrificed areas in the posterior brain important for visual attention and alertness.” 4 Mindfulness meditation as a stress reliever has been studied extensively, but there’s been little evidence that it helps those suffering from chronic inflammation conditions where psychological stress plays a major role. Now a study by University of Wis- consin–Madison neuroscientists suggests mindfulness meditation techniques may help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, inflammator y bowel disease, and asthma, and “offer a lower-cost alternative or comple- ment to standard treatment.” 5● Know thyself How well do you know— really know—yourself? It’s hard to be objective about your own personality, but a study from Washington University in St. Louis suggests mindfulness can help with that. The key is nonjudgmental observa- tion and attention, which is central to mindfulness practice. The research- ers found that learning to notice and question our positive and negative biases means greater clarity when it comes to understanding who we are. 2 1 Psychological Science, March 2013. 2 Perspectives on Psychological Science, March 2013. 3 Health Psychology, March 2013. 4 Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, February 28, 2013. 5 Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, January 2013. Special thanks to Mindfulness Research Monthly and Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life for highlighting notable research. August 2013 mindful 19