The use of mindfulness interventions have increased in schools with little knowledge of how dispositional mindfulness affects cognitive processes in the developing brain. The primary objective of this research was to investigate the association between dispositional mindfulness and the neural correlates of working memory in adolescents. A secondary objective was to examine the link between adolescent dispositional mindfulness and working memory performance.
Adolescents aged 11–18 (M = 13.75, SD = 1.56, n = 83) completed the Adult and Adolescent Mindfulness Scale and a functional magnetic resonance imaging N-back task. The blood oxygen level–dependent signal as well as functional connectivity of the right dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was contrasted between 2-back versus 0-back conditions.
Lower blood oxygen level–dependent signal in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was correlated to higher Attention and Awareness scores, controlling for participants’ experience with a mindfulness practice (k = 112, FWEp = .011). Reduced functional connectivity between right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex/supplementary motor area during the 2-back compared to 0-back task was associated with higher Nonreactivity, although this did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. Dispositional mindfulness did not correlate to working memory performance.
Adolescents with higher levels of Attention and Awareness and Nonreactivity may require less cognitive effort to inhibit distractors for the same level of working memory performance.