File photo courtesy: Unsplash/Simon Migaj

A new, large-scale study from Michigan State University suggests meditation can improve focus and lead to fewer mistakes.

Researchers examined a type of meditation called “open-monitoring,” which focuses on awareness of feelings, thoughts, and sensations that are present in the meditator’s body.

“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open-monitoring meditation is a bit different,” said Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate, and study co-author, in a statement.

“It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery.”

More than 200 volunteers who had no meditation experience participated. They were guided through a 20-minute open-monitoring meditation session while researchers measured brain activity through an EEG.

“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Lin said. 

“A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls.”

While no immediate improvements were observed, the researchers say the findings point to the long-term benefits of meditation.

The paper was published in the journal Brain Sciences