Need a memory boost? Meditate…while eating macadamia nuts

mmw_meditation_091908_articleIf you love fatty food, maybe you should learn to focus really, really intensely on it. A new study suggests that a specific style of focused meditation can boost short-term memory, while separate research shows a link between dietary fats and long-term recollection.

First up, a new study by researchers at George Mason University found that “Deity Yoga” meditation could prompt improvements in visuospatial talents – the ability to retain images in visual memory. During DY meditation, practitioners image and focus on a detailed image, traditionally of a deity and the deity’s surrroundings.

This study compared three groups: DY meditators, OP meditators (who do not advocate visualization during meditation) and non-meditators. Participants first completed visualization tasks, meditators meditated for 20 minutes while non-meditators rested, and everyone then completed a second round of tasks. DY meditators scored significantly higher than both groups on the tasks performed after their meditation session.  Researchers think the finding “has many implications for therapy, treatment of memory loss, and mental training.”

Is Little Debbie a deity? If so, UC Irvine researchers might want to start a meditation group to further boost the recollection abilities they’ve tied to fatty foods. Previous studies have concluded that oleic acids from fats are transformed into a compound called OEA during digestion. Now, they’ve proven, using rodents, that OEA causes memory consolidation, the process whereby short-term memories become long-term ones. It’s likely that the process was an evolutionary tool, helping humans recall when and where they last found a high-fat food source. Today, such memory enhancement is a little problematic: OEA is likely responsible for those late-night cupcake cravings you can’t seem to shake…

So, until researchers come up with an OEA inhibitor of some sort, you’ll have to stop eating fatty foods to stop craving them. Maybe meditate on the Twinkie instead?

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Transcendental meditation a cure for college stress

medThe practice of transcendental meditation (TA) seem to be an effective means for college students to combat academic and social stress.

That’s according to the American University Department of Psychology in Washington, D.C., and the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Together, the researchers studied the effects of meditation practice on brain and physiological functioning in college students.

Fifty students were assigned to a TM or control group and tracked for 10 weeks. The end result? Those in the TM groups had higher Brain Integration Scale scores (BIS), less sleepiness and were less jumpy and irritable. A low BIS score indicates fragmented brain functioning, which leads to scattered and disorganized thinking.

If TM can help alleviate stress in college students, it seems likely that the practice could also help others with high-stress lifestyles. Like NYU grad students, perhaps. That said, I’ve tried meditation before, but gave up when I realized it necessitated good posture. I don’t have time for good posture.

TM is a technique developed in 1958 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and involves two 20-minute meditation sessions each day, sitting with eyes closed and reciting a mantra. For more details on TM, visit the official website.

See the full story here.



Acupuncture Goes To War
02/02/2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

20070925_acupuncture1The debate on the merits of acupuncture – and any other so-called “alternative” method of healing (think herbalists, meditation, chiropractors and so on) continues with two interesting headlines this week.

The first is the release of two systematic reviews by Cochrane researchers, showing that fake acupuncture works just as well as the real deal. The researchers showed that placebo treatment was just as effective in treating headaches as legitimate acupuncture technique. A recent Danish study of 3,000 patients reached the same conclusion.

Someone might want to let the U.S. military in on the results. The Air Force has announced that they will be training physicians to use acupuncture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Richard Niemtzow, chief of the acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base, developed “battlefield acupuncture” in 2001, using short needles on five points on the outer ear to control pain and reduce stress.

When I first read that the military would be using a still-unproven means of healing in war zones, I balked. But upon further consideration, if soldiers experience reduced pain and stress, does it really matter that the relief might be all in their head?