Thursday, December 3, 2015

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION MAY IMPROVE TEEN MEMORY

This much is true and well-documented. Changes in the mind associated with the regular practice of mindfulness meditation include but are not limited to increased cortical thickness in the grey matter of the brain, delayed ageing of the brain, enhanced cognitive functioning and performance, improved concentration and attention to detail, faster sensory processing, increased learning and consciousness, increased verbal creativity, and increased capacity for focus and memory. 

Now, new research suggests that adolescents assigned to a mindfulness meditation program experience improvements in their working memory. The latter is involved in many aspects of learning, like reasoning ability, mathematical problem solving and reading comprehension.

‘These results are consistent with a growing body of research in adults that has found mindfulness meditation to be a helpful tool for enhancing working memory capacity,’ said Assistant Professor Kristen E Jastrowski Mano [pictured] of the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati, who co-authored the new study.

The researchers randomly divided 198 public middle school students into three groups: mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga or a waitlist. Most students were female, ages 12 to 15, and from low-income households that qualified for reduced-cost lunch. Before the study began and after it ended, the students completed computer-based memory assessments and reported their stress and anxiety levels via questionnaires. The meditation and yoga groups met for 45 minutes twice a week, for four weeks. In addition, students logged their home practice in journals that were collected each week.

Two trained mindfulness instructors led the meditation group in breathing techniques, formal meditation and discussion using written scripts with instructions on sitting posture, breathing and wandering thoughts.

SourceMindSparke. All rights reserved.

Students were encouraged to take CDs with meditation audio recordings and use them for 15 to 30 minutes daily at home. The yoga sessions were structured similarly, with trained instructors focusing on breathing, yoga poses and discussion. The kids in this group were also encouraged to practice at home daily using a DVD with yoga lessons.

Memory scores increased in the mindfulness meditation group by the end of the study, while they did not change in the yoga or waitlist groups, the authors reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Perceived stress and anxiety decreased in all three groups over time.

‘Theoretical and experimental research suggests that mindfulness meditation is associated with changes in neural pathways and may be particularly effective in promoting executive functioning,’ Dr Jastrowski Mano said. ‘The practice of meditation---which requires sustained attention while simultaneously redirecting attention back to the current experience---is closely related to the function of working memory.’


SourceQuach D, Jastrowski Mano K E, and Alexander K. ‘A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents.’ The Journal of Adolescent Health, online November 11, 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.09.024


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