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Meditation is a form of mental training geared toward improving a person’s core neurocognitive function, such as regulation of attention and emotion. Open monitoring meditation, often referred to as “being present,” trains a person to engage in non-judgmental attention to present-moment experiences. Findings from a 2019 study suggest that open monitoring meditation improves a neurocognitive function called error monitoring.

Error monitoring is the process by which the brain detects and responds to mistakes. It reflects core cognitive control processes that underlie emotional and behavioral regulation and plays key roles in learning, academic achievement, and work performance.

The study involved 212 healthy female college students (average age, 19 years) who had never practiced meditation before. Half of the participants engaged in a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise, while the other half listened to an audio lecture. The investigators measured the participants' brain activity in both activities via electroencephalography (EEG). After completion of their respective activities, the participants took a computerized test to gauge distraction and performance.

The EEGs revealed that brain activity related to conscious error detection increased in the participants who participated in the meditation. No changes in error detection were noted in the participants who listened to the audio lecture.

These findings suggest that open monitoring meditation enhances the brain’s capacity to detect and pay attention to mistakes, potentially reducing the number of errors a person makes. Learn about other health benefits of meditation in this episode featuring Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

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