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Mindfulness (N Y). 2017;8(1):78-94. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0482-8. Epub 2015 Dec 28.

Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults.

Author information

1
Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF UK.
2
Department of Psychological Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
3
Institute for Psychology, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany.

Abstract

There is growing interest in the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation practices in terms of counteracting some of the cognitive effects associated with aging. Pursuing this question, the aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of mindfulness training on executive control and emotion regulation in older adults, by means of studying behavioral and electrophysiological changes. Participants, 55 to 75 years of age, were randomly allocated to an 8-week mindful breath awareness training group or an active control group engaging in brain training exercises. Before and after the training period, participants completed an emotional-counting Stroop task, designed to measure attentional control and emotion regulation processes. Concurrently, their brain activity was measured by means of 64-channel electroencephalography. The results show that engaging in just over 10 min of mindfulness practice five times per week resulted in significant improvements in behavioral (response latency) and electrophysiological (N2 event-related potential) measures related to general task performance. Analyses of the underlying cortical sources (Variable Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography, VARETA) indicate that this N2-related effect is primarily associated with changes in the right angular gyrus and other areas of the dorsal attention network. However, the study did not find the expected specific improvements in executive control and emotion regulation, which may be due to the training instructions or the relative brevity of the intervention. Overall, the results indicate that engaging in mindfulness meditation training improves the maintenance of goal-directed visuospatial attention and may be a useful strategy for counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging.

KEYWORDS:

Cognitive aging; Emotion regulation; Event-related potentials; Executive control; Mindfulness meditation training; Randomized active controlled study

Conflict of interest statement

Compliance with Ethical Standards The study was carried out in line with the ethics guidelines of the British Psychological Society and was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at Liverpool John Moores University. Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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