Meditation can help relieve pain and improve memory by regulating a brain wave known as the alpha rhythm, which 'turns down the volume' on distractions.
Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall. The discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.
The alpha rhythm plays a role in the cells that process senses like touch, sight and sound in the brain. It helps the brain ignore distractions, helping a person to focus while many things are going on.
In a small study, researchers found that participants using meditation were better able to modulate the brain waves - when they were told where to direct their attention - after they finished an eight-week course, compared to a control group that did no meditation.
The findings explain reports that mindfulness meditation decreases pain perception. Enhanced ability to turn the alpha rhythm up or down could give practitioners' greater ability to regulate pain sensation. This may also help explain how meditation might affect basic brain function.
In view of that we know about how alpha waves arising from electrical currents in brain cells, the findings suggest that mindfulness meditation practitioners can use the mind to enhance regulation of currents in targeted brain cells. The implications may help patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.