The seemingly nonsensical Zen practice of "thinking about not thinking" could help free the mind of distractions, new brain scans reveal.
This suggests Zen meditation could help treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (so-called ADD or ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, major depression and other disorders marked by distracting thoughts.
In the last decade, there has been a resurgence of scientific research into meditation, due in part to the wide availability and increasing sophistication of brain-scanning techniques. For instance, scientists recently found that months of intense training in meditation can sharpen a person's brain enough to help them notice details they might otherwise miss.
"It is important that this type of research be conducted with high scientific standards because it carries a long-standing stigma -- perhaps well-deserved? -- of being wishy-washy," said researcher Giuseppe Pagnoni, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Constructive skepticism should always be welcomed as a great sparring partner."
Pagnoni and his colleagues investigated Zen meditation, which Pagnoni himself has practiced while studying for his doctorate in Italy.