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How Meditation Might Help Break the Cycle of Poverty

Practice
In our July issue we reported on studies by Martha Farah, director for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrating that children raised in poverty tend to be able to hold fewer items in their working memory than middle-class children. Dr. Farah and colleagues then went on to discover that the reason for this deficit in working memory is stress. These findings are enormously important because they help explain how poverty can be passed from generation to generation. A person with a diminished working memory will not learn as fast or as well, potentially leaving the poor at a permanent disadvantage.Now, a seemingly unrelated study on advanced meditators by psychologist Maria Kozhevnikov of George Mason University suggests a possible antidote for the brain deficits created by poverty. The team of researchers were investigating the effects of different styles of Buddhist meditation on visuospatial skills and discovered ways that working memory can be improved.As the researchers reported in Psychological Science, when we see something, it is kept in our visual short-term memory fo …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor in chief of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.


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