Supporting Mindfulness Practices with Brain-Sensing Devices. Cognitive and Electrophysiological Evidences

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation is at present deemed also as form of mental training that may allow for empowering focusing, attention regulation, and executive control skills. Nonetheless, the potential of traditional mindfulness practice for improving cognitive and neural efficiency is affected by two critical requirements—intensity of exercise and perseverance to practice—which represent a known limitation of accessibility to meditation practices. It has been suggested that the impact of such limitations might be reduced thanks to the support of external devices. The present study aims at testing the efficacy of an intensive technology-mediated intervention based on mindful practices and supported by a brain-sensing device to optimize cognitive performance and neural efficiency. Forty participants took part in the study and were randomly divided in an active control and an experimental group. Both groups were involved in a structured intervention, which lasted 4 weeks and was constituted by brief daily activities. The experimental group, differently from the active control, underwent mindfulness-based practices with the support of a dedicated device. Analyses highlighted increased electrophysiological responsiveness indices at rest and frequency profiles consistent with a relaxed mindset in the experimental group. Participants in the experimental group also showed improved electrophysiological markers of attention regulation and improved cognitive performance, as measured by a complex reaction times task. Findings hint at the potential of the investigated technology-mediated mindfulness practice for enhancing cognitive performance and for inducing consistent modulations of neural efficiency markers.

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Acknowledgements

Authors kindly thank Alessandra Coniglio and Marina Ballerio for their support in data collection.

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Contributions

DC: designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. GF and IV: collaborated with the execution of the study, analyzed the data, and collaborated in the editing of the manuscript. MB: designed the study, supervised the data analyses, and critically revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Davide Crivelli.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standard.

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Crivelli, D., Fronda, G., Venturella, I. et al. Supporting Mindfulness Practices with Brain-Sensing Devices. Cognitive and Electrophysiological Evidences. Mindfulness 10, 301–311 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0975-3

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Neurofeedback
  • EEG
  • Wearable device
  • Attention
  • Cognitive control