Besides the stress-reducing benefits, new research has also linked meditation to temporary improvement in visuospatial abilities.
The study was inspired by evidence that suggests Buddhist monks have exceptional imagery skills and are able to maintain complex images in their visual short-term memory for hours. It was conducted by psychologists from the George Mason University who investigated the effects of different styles of Buddhist meditation on such skills.
The scientists focused on Deity Yoga (DY) and Open Presence (OP) techniques and asked meditation practitioners along with nonmeditators to participate in visuospatial tasks conducted in two stages.
The tasks tested their mental rotation abilities (being able to mentally rotate a 3-D structure) and visual memory and revealed that all of the participants performed similarly on the initial set of tests.
However, following mediation, practitioners of the DY style showed a dramatic improvement on both tasks compared to OP practitioners and the control group.
DY is the fundamental Vajrayana practice in which practitioners visualize themselves as the meditation Buddha. It enables them to release themselves from spiritual obscurations and to practice compassion and wisdom simultaneously.
The research results also confirm DY allows practitioners to access greater levels of visuospatial memory resources.
"[These findings have] many implications for therapy, treatment of memory loss and mental training," the authors conclude.