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Mindfulness (N Y). 2011 Sep;2(3):179-185.

Component Processes of Executive Function-Mindfulness, Self-control, and Working Memory-and Their Relationships with Mental and Behavioral Health.

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Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


We examined the interrelationships between higher-order cognitive functions-mindfulness, self-control, and working memory-that appear to be component processes that underlie executive function (EF) and their association with indicators of mental and behavioral health. Data were collected from first-year medical students attending a large private university in California (N=31) via a computer-based questionnaire which was administered via email hyperlink. Results indicate that self-control schedule (SCS) scores were significantly correlated with the negative dimension of positive and negative affect schedule scores (r=-0.59, p<0.05), psychological well-being scale scores (r=0.46, p<0.05), and mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS) scores (r=0.35, p≤0.10). The planful behavior dimension of the SCS was correlated with MAAS scores (r=0.38, p<0.10), automated operation span task scores (r=0.51, p<0.05), and total SCS scores (r=0.72, p<0.01). Large and significant inverse correlations were found between current meditation practice and alcohol use (r=-0.56, p<0.05) and AUDIT scores (r=-0.48, p<0.05). Findings from this pilot study suggest that an overlap exists between some component processes of EF; however, the majority of variance in the components is not shared. Moreover, these higher-order cognitive processes appear to have protective relationships with substance use and are positively associated with self-reported meditation practice.

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