Mindfulness Training and Attentional Control in Older Adults: a Randomized Controlled Trial
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Mindfulness-based interventions have been found to improve facets of attentional control. However, comparison with active control groups has been scarce, and few studies have examined mindfulness as a means to ameliorate age-related cognitive deficits. This rigorously designed randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of mindfulness-based attention training (MBAT) on attentional control in older adults relative to an active control group.
Seventy-four community-dwelling older adults were randomized to 4 weeks of MBAT or an active lifestyle education control group. Pre- and post-intervention, participants completed two computerized measures of attentional control with intermittent assessments of self-reported mind-wandering, with metrics of attentional control and mind-wandering being the primary outcome variables for the study. Additionally, participants completed trait and state measures of mindfulness, the positive and negative affect scale, and homework logs to assess intervention-related engagement.
Although we found some evidence for greater reductions in mind-wandering in the MBAT than the active control group, the MBAT group did not exhibit greater improvements in attentional performance. Exploratory analyses revealed working memory as a significant moderator of the observed effects, such that those in the MBAT group with higher working memory showed greater improvement in attentional control.
We found partial evidence that brief mindfulness training improves mind-wandering, but not attentional control in older adults. Our study provides preliminary support for working memory as an important moderator of short-duration mindfulness training; however, given the exploratory nature of these effects, replication is warranted.
KeywordsMindfulness training Aging Attentional control Working memory Mind-wandering
PW assisted with data collection and data analysis, prepared tables and figures with input from other authors, and wrote the introduction, method, and results. SF collaborated with the design of the study and data analyses and wrote the discussion. RA assisted with data analyses and wrote part of the method. KB assisted with data analysis and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. AL collaborated with the design of the study and writing and editing of the final manuscript. LK assisted with data collection and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. RSP designed the study, performed randomization procedures, provided materials and resources for the interventions, provided input and guidance on data analysis and the preparation of tables and figures, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The Ohio State University Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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