Liverpool academic finds just 10 minutes daily meditation can have dramatic effects

Dr Peter Malinowski of the Meditation Research Lab at LJMU’s Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour undertook an ‘innovative’ study with a university in Germany. Tony McDonough reports

meditation, mindfulness
Just 10 minutes of meditation a day could offer significant benefits


A new study co-authored by an academic at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has shown that meditating for just 10 minutes every day can improve short-term memory and concentration.

Dr Peter Malinowski directs the Meditation Research Lab at LJMU’s Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour and, in a collaboration with Osnabrück University’s Institute of Psychology in Germany, used what they described as an “innovative methodological approach” to carry our the study.

New approach

Up to now, studies largely failed to fully distinguish whether meditation practice or other non-specific factors such as group discussion or bodily exercises that are part of standard mindfulness programmes were responsible for observed cognitive improvements.

This new study, published in Scientific Reports, overcame this limitation in two ways: by instructing novice meditators in only one simple meditation exercise rather than a complex and multi-faceted mindfulness-based intervention and by comparing them to an active control group that practiced muscle relaxation.

By testing their cognitive skills with a highly challenging task, it was ensured that participants could still improve, even when performing the same task repeatedly. And combining this with advanced EEG measurements the researchers were able to analyse how the involved brain networks dealt with this task.

Big improvements

After a total of only five to six hours of meditation within eight weeks (in 10 minute blocks), participants demonstrated significant improvements on the task that challenges concentration and requires to continuously update information in short-term memory.

Recorded brain activity also showed that these improvements occurred because the responsible brain networks became more efficient in carrying out the “multiple object tracking task” task that requires participants to keep track of up to five randomly moving circles within a “cloud” of identical circles.

Dr Malinowski said: “It seems extraordinary that a simple 10-minute meditation exercise can lead have such profound effects.

“But the simple meditation exercise of focusing on the sensation of the breath while keeping an open, curious and non-judging attitude improves the skill of singling out relevant from irrelevant distracting information.

“This keeps relevant information in “mind’s eye” and allows someone to stay fully focused on these relevant details, feats that are in high demand in nowadays common situations of information overload.”

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