Thursday, January 13, 2011

MINDFULNESS IMPROVES SELF-MEMORY

How good is your "self-memory" (also known as "autobiographical memory")? How well can you recall specific events from your past?

It is fairly well-documented that the autobiographical memory of persons suffering from depressive states, not to mention suicidal patients, is overgeneral and lacks specificity … that is, the persons concerned find it difficult to retrieve memories of specific events. Instead, they tend to retrieve and relate to others only generic summaries of past events, that is, they seem to be able to only access over-general memories. (Memories of more specific events from the past are theoretically accessible, but are almost impossible for many people to retrieve.)

A Belgian study, published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy in 2009, explored the role of executive processes as a mediator of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) effects in an unselected sample.

Various tests, namely an autobiographical memory task, a cognitive inhibition task, a motor inhibition task, a cognitive flexibility task and a motor flexibility task, were administered to the participants before and after intervention.

Compared to matched controls, the MBCT participants showed increased autobiographical memory specificity, decreased over-generality, and improved cognitive flexibility capacity and capacity to inhibit cognitive prepotent responses (the latter being behavioural responses with the greatest (“most potent”) tendencies of being evoked by given sensory stimuli).

The researchers noted that Mindfulness training was not associated with changes on motor inhibition and motor flexibility. That tends to suggest that the practice of Mindfulness specifically affects cognitive executive components such as memory, thinking and so forth.

The results support the notion that Mindfulness training inhibits secondary elaborative processing of thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise in one’s stream of consciousness … ruminations, obsessional thinking and the like.

Another study, reported in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2000, investigated whether autobiographical memory could be affected by psychological treatment. Recovered depressed patients were randomly allocated to receive either treatment as usual or treatment designed to reduce risk of relapse. It was found that whereas control patients showed no change in specificity of memories recalled in response to cue words, the treatment group showed a significantly reduced number of generic memories.


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