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Media multi-tasking impairs attention, breath meditation helps

Posted 05.26.2016 | by AMRA

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Personal computing devices have introduced us to the phenomenon of “media multitasking,” in which we constantly switch attention between e-mailing, texting, web-browsing, and listening to music, all while ostensibly working. Research has shown that people who engage in large amounts of media multitasking perform significantly more poorly on measures of attentional ability than those who engage in it less.

Gorman et al. [Scientific Reports] explored whether a brief breath-counting meditation might temporarily ameliorate the attentional deficits associated with media multitasking.

The researchers conducted an online survey of media multitasking in 1,683 college undergraduates. They then selected a research sample of 22 heavy media multitaskers who scored at least a standard deviation above the mean, and a sample of 20 light media multitaskers who scored at least a standard deviation below the mean in frequency of media multitasking.

The students participated in two separate assessment sessions scheduled less than 48 hours apart. They completed the same assessment battery measuring attentional control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility in each of the sessions. The attentional control measures included computer-administered tasks requiring the ability to ignore distractions, detect sameness and difference in the orientation of geometrical shapes, resist impulsive responding, and attend to visual cues requiring different responses. The working memory task involved recording strings of numbers in the reverse order in which they were presented. The cognitive flexibility measure required quickly naming as many possible alternative uses of common everyday objects as one could.

The conditions under which the assessment batteries were administered differed in each of the sessions. In one of the sessions, the assessment battery was broken into tasks that were interspersed with three ten-minute breath-counting meditations. […]

May 26th, 2016|News|

Teens in mindfulness program improve cognitive ability

Posted 12.26.2015 | by AMRA

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Working memory capacity is a measure of one’s ability to temporarily hold information in mind while completing a cognitive task. There seems to be some conceptual overlap between the focused attention required for working memory and the moment-to-moment attention that is an integral part of mindfulness. Working memory plays crucial roles in learning, cognitive development, reasoning, comprehension, and academic performance, and any intervention that can improve working memory is of great interest to specialists in child development. In a randomized, controlled study, Quach, et al. [Journal of Adolescent Health] investigated whether an MBI can improve working memory in adolescents.

The 186 participants, primarily Hispanic and Asian junior high students (62% female; average age = 13) from predominantly low-income households, were randomly assigned to either mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga, or a wait-list control. The active intervention participants learned and practiced either mindfulness meditation or hatha yoga during eight 45-minute twice-a-week training sessions, while control participants attended their regular physical education classes.

Mindfulness meditation training was based on a truncated, modified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) curriculum that excluded hatha yoga. Hatha yoga training included an emphasis on non-judgmental attention to body posture and movement. Both interventions encouraged 15-30 minutes of daily home practice.

Before and after the inventions, participants completed a computerized test of working memory requiring them to memorize series of visually presented letters while simultaneously solving arithmetic equations. Working memory capacity was measured by the total number of letters participants recalled in their correct order within each presentational set, yielding a working memory score that could range from 0 to 75.

Participants also completed self-report measures of perceived stress and anxiety along with the Child […]

December 26th, 2015|News|

Neurocognitive Impact of MBCT in Bipolar Patients

Posted from archive: 07.26.2013 | by AMRA

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Ives-Deliperi et al. [Journal of Affective Disorders] compared 16 bipolar patients before and after MBCT with a wait-list control of 7 bipolar patients and a cohort of 10 untreated healthy controls. Participants were assessed for emotional and cognitive symptoms and underwent fMRIs while performing mindfulness meditation. The patient cohort consisted of bipolar I and bipolar 2 patients with only minimal or sub-threshold symptomatology.

Prior to MBCT, the bipolar participants exhibited higher anxiety and stress, poorer working memory, and lower medial prefrontal cortical (PFC) activity than healthy controls. After MBCT, bipolar patients exhibited decreased anxiety and improved mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ), working memory, spatial memory, verbal fluency, and emotional regulation compared with wait-list controls.

In addition, the MBCT group exhibited increased activity in the medial PFC and the right posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) compared with wait-list controls and increased left anterior cingulate cortical (ACC) activity compared with healthy controls. Increased medial PFC function correlated significantly (r= .61) with improved FFMQ scores. The findings demonstrate MBCT’s positive impact on the core symptoms of emotional dysregulation and executive dysfunction in bipolar disorder.

Reference: Ives-Deliperi, V. L., Howells, F., Stein, D. J., Meintjes, E. M., & Horn, N. (2013). The effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in patients with bipolar disorder: A controlled functional MRI investigation. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(3):1152-7. [PMID: 23790741]

[Link to abstract]

January 6th, 2014|News|

Mindfulness Relieves Burnout in Grade School Teachers

Posted from archive: 06.25.2013 | by AMRA

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Roeser et al. [Journal of Education Psychology] tested an 8-week mindfulness training, based on MBSR but designed specifically for grade school teachers, that focused group discussions and homework assignments on teaching-related concerns. Teachers (N=113) from Canada and the U.S. were randomly assigned to either mindfulness training or a wait-list control.

Teachers in the mindfulness condition showed higher levels of self-reported mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ) and occupational self-compassion, and lower levels of self-reported occupational stress and burnout, anxiety, and depression than did controls both at program’s end and at 3-month follow-up. The effect sizes were large, ranging from 0.57 to 1.56. Changes in stress, burnout, depression, and anxiety were all mediated by changes in mindfulness and occupational self-compassion.

The Canadian teachers also completed an objective measure of working memory (the ability to hold multiple items of information in mind simultaneously) using a task requiring the recall of strings of digits while checking math problems for accuracy.

Teachers in the mindfulness group showed significantly better working memory capacity after training than did controls, but the effects on working memory were small, ranging from 0.15 to 0.33. Measures of cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate were also obtained from the Canadian teachers, but yielded no significant changes over time. Most teachers (87%) completed the program, and 98 would recommend it to their peers. Average ratings on a 5-point scale of perceived benefit were high, both for professional (4.10) and personal (4.58) benefit.

Reference:

Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., . . . Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control […]

January 3rd, 2014|News|