The Shamatha Project was inspired by Alan Wallace, long time Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and author. Amazingly, 2 samples of 30 participants agreed to engage in 3 months of intensive meditation practice, approximately 5 hours per day of shamatha practice, a focused concentration on the breath or anapanasati. This type of practice differs somewhat from the moment to moment concentration of whatever is present which is called vipassana.
I was reminded of the project when listening to Secular Buddhist podcast #23 with one of the researchers. The research is written up in Psychological Science, Intensive Meditation Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention.
The test of attention that they used reminded me of the TOVA test (Test of Variables of Attention), which if you have ever taken it, is very boring by design, but is quite good for detecting lapses in sustained attention. A generic version is available, TOAV (Test of Attentional Vigilance).