February 9, 2009

Interoceptive Awareness in Experienced Meditators

cognition, meditation, perception — alice @ 2:39 am Print This Post  AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Meditation can be conceptualized as a complex form of attentional and emotional training that promotes well-being and emotional balance.  In most meditation traditions, a common practice is to focus one’s attention to internal body sensations, and many traditions state that this practice results in an increased awareness of internal body sensations.  In a study by Khalsa and colleagues, two groups of meditators (Tibetan Buddhist and Kundalini) were compared to a group of nonmeditators on their ability to detect their own heartbeat.  (The meditators and nonmeditators were matched for age and body mass index.)  Although the investigators predicted that the experienced meditators would outperform the nonmeditators, no such evidence was found.  Compared to the nonmeditators, however, the experienced meditators consistently rated the difficulty of the heartbeat detection task as easier and their interoceptive performance as superior.  These results suggest that the practice of focusing one’s attention to internal body sensations (a core feature of meditation) does not enhance the ability to sense the heartbeat at rest, but it alters the subjective experience of it.

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