Mindfulness 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. Using meditation was better able to modulate the waves when they were told where to direct their attention after they finished an eight-week course. It has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall, our discovery that mindfulness mediators 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's cortex. It helps the brain ignore distractions, helping a person to focus while many things are going on, the findings may 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.
Given what we know about how alpha waves arise from electrical currents in sensory cortical cells, these data suggest that mindfulness meditation practitioners can use the mind to enhance regulation of currents in targeted cortical cells. The implications extend far beyond meditation and give us clues about possible ways to help people better regulate a brain rhythm that is deregulated in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.