Monday, March 23, 2015


Mindfulness is increasingly being utilized as a therapeutic modality for soldiers returning home from combat.

However, new research from the University of Miami suggests that mindfulness may be just as useful, if not more useful, before soldiers are deployed to conflict zones. Staying focused in the present moment, along with cognitive resilience, is what mindfulness is all about, and that is an essential skill for all of us including soldiers.

‘Soldiers are experts at standing at attention,’ Miami neuroscientist Dr Amishi Jha [pictured left], the study's lead author, said in a statement. ‘However, maintaining a mind at attention under the intense physical, emotional and cognitive demands they face, is a more difficult task.’

In the study 75 soldiers stationed in Hawaii, who were all 8 to 10 months away from being deployed to Afghanistan, underwent a mindfulness training ('MT') program after which their attention and cognitive performance were tested using the Sustained Attention to Response Task ('SART'), a test that measures attentional lapses and mind-wandering. The data showed MT during pre-deployment, completed in just 8 hours over the course of 8 weeks, to be effective in preventing mind-wandering and attentional lapses.

While previous studies by the same researchers showed 24 hours of mindfulness training to lead to improvements in mood and cognitive function, the new study is the first to suggest that a much shorter training period could still yield significant improvements.

‘With the continued deployment of our soldiers to face complex threats around the world, these results are a critical addition to our ever-evolving readiness and resiliency toolkit,’ Deputy Commanding General of the US Army in Europe Major General Walter Piatt said in a statement. ‘Ensuring our men and women are both mentally and physically prepared is essential to mission success,’ he said. ‘This study provides important information to help us do that.’

Resource: Jha A P, Morrison A B, Dainer-Best J, Parker S, Rostrup N, and Stanley E A. ‘Minds “At Attention”: Mindfulness Training Curbs Attentional Lapses in Military Cohorts.’ PLOS ONE. Published: February 11, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116889.


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