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28-12-2015 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 1/2017 Open Access

Mindfulness 1/2017

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

Tijdschrift:
Mindfulness > Uitgave 1/2017
Auteurs:
Peter Malinowski, Adam W. Moore, Bethan R. Mead, Thomas Gruber
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s12671-015-0482-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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.

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