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Aging Ment Health. 2017 Nov;21(11):1113-1120. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2016.1247423. Epub 2016 Nov 9.

Can mindfulness-based interventions influence cognitive functioning in older adults? A review and considerations for future research.

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a Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology , School for Mental Health and Neuroscience , Maastricht University , Maastricht , The Netherlands.
b King's College London , King's Health Partners , Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry , London , UK.



An increased need exists to examine factors that protect against age-related cognitive decline. There is preliminary evidence that meditation can improve cognitive function. However, most studies are cross-sectional and examine a wide variety of meditation techniques. This review focuses on the standard eight-week mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).


We searched the PsychINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science, COCHRANE, and PubMed databases to identify original studies investigating the effects of MBI on cognition in older adults.


Six reports were included in the review of which three were randomized controlled trials. Studies reported preliminary positive effects on memory, executive function and processing speed. However, most reports had a high risk of bias and sample sizes were small. The only study with low risk of bias, large sample size and active control group reported no significant findings.


We conclude that eight-week MBI for older adults are feasible, but results on cognitive improvement are inconclusive due a limited number of studies, small sample sizes, and a high risk of bias. Rather than a narrow focus on cognitive training per se, future research may productively shift to investigate MBI as a tool to alleviate suffering in older adults, and to prevent cognitive problems in later life already in younger target populations.


MBCT; MBSR; Mindfulness; cognition

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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