A core process trained during mindfulness is inhibitory control. A decline in inhibitory control is thought to underlie age-related cognitive declines. Electroencephalographic event-related potentials (ERPs) index both the speed and allocation of attentional resources, making them useful in assessing cognition in ageing. While mindfulness has been shown to improve attentional control, studies examining ageing cohorts are lacking. Here, we examine ERP changes during an inhibitory control task in older adults to assess the ability of mindfulness to enhance cognition in ageing.
A longitudinal RCT was conducted to examine the effect of an 8-week mindfulness training (MT) intervention on the N2 and P3 ERP components during the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) in healthy older adults aged over 60 years (n = 48). An active control computer-based attention training (CT) program (n = 27) designed to activate similar attentional components to mindfulness was used to determine if outcomes resulted from attention training or mindfulness-specific factors.
While both the MT and CT groups displayed improved SART performance following the interventions (as indexed by errors of commission and reaction time coefficient of variation), only the MT group showed significant reductions in frontal P3 latency during response inhibition.
The results suggest that mindfulness may enhance the speed and efficiency of attentional processes, thus providing protective benefits against age-related cognitive decline.