Cancellation tasks require visual selectivity and a repetitive motor response.[10
] They not only require sustained attention, but also visual scanning and activation and inhibition of rapid responses. The present study found a significant increase in sustained attention scores after the academic year for the GES group (P
< 0.05), but the increase for the MES group did not reach significance.
The significant increase in net score for the GES group on the test suggests that the GES curriculum improves functioning of the right frontoparietal cortex mediating sustained attention.[2
] Similarly, the significant increase in total score by the GES group suggests improvement in the frontal association areas, where the cognitive function guiding motor skills are located.[11
] Decrease in wrong cancellations suggests that GES improves functions in the orbitofrontal area of the prefrontal cortex, which is hypothesized to mediate distraction avoidance.[12
Several components in the GES curriculum could have contributed to the increase in the GES group’s sustained attention scores. Any kind of rhythmic resonance has the power to make the mind more relaxed and peaceful[13
] and so improve attention span. Vedic mantras
are highly rhythmic, and uniformly filled with resonance. Their daily chanting by the GES group may have been partly responsible for the observed increase in the group–s sustained attention scores.
Various papers have been published regarding growth of sustained attention through regular practice of meditation.[7
] The GES group was engaged in daily practice of Gayatri mantra
meditation throughout the year. This may also have contributed to the group’s observed increase in sustained attention.[14
In addition to Gayatri meditation and vedic chanting, the GES group participated in yogic practices such as asanas, pranayama, and puja, which have the power to calm the mind, and bring the attention from past or future to the present moment. This may also have contributed to the observed growth of attention.
Reduced anxiety can improve performance on tasks requiring sustained attention[15
] and yoga’s anxiety reducing effects[16
] could also have facilitated this.
The students were assessed only twice during the entire academic year. No periodical assessments were conducted. One limitation of the study design, therefore, is that no immediate effect of GES was observed. Also, the single academic year time period of the study is not very long. Further studies assessing immediate effects of GES on sustained attention, and also assessing the whole time span of GES should be conducted. A further limitation of the study is that it does not evaluate how GES students utilize their improved attention span in their social and professional life after completing their education. Further studies could be designed to assess this.