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The ability to focus one's attention underlies success in many everyday tasks, but voluntary attention cannot be sustained for extended periods of time. In the laboratory, sustained-attention failure is manifest as a decline in perceptual sensitivity with increasing time on task, known as the vigilance decrement. We investigated improvements in sustained attention with training (~ 5 hr/day for 3 months), which consisted of meditation practice that involved sustained selective attention on a chosen stimulus (e.g., the participant's breath). Participants were randomly assigned either to receive training first (n = 30) or to serve as waiting-list controls and receive training second (n = 30). Training produced improvements in visual discrimination that were linked to increases in perceptual sensitivity and improved vigilance during sustained visual attention. Consistent with the resource model of vigilance, these results suggest that perceptual improvements can reduce the resource demand imposed by target discrimination and thus make it easier to sustain voluntary attention.
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Mindfulness meditators practice the non-judgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal experiences as they arise. Using voxel-based morphometry, this study investigated MRI brain images of 20 mindfulness (Vipassana) meditators (mean practice 8.6 years; 2 h daily) and compared the regional gray matter concentration to that of non-meditators matched for sex, age, education and handedness. Meditators were predicted to show greater gray matter concentration in regions that are typically activated during meditation. Results confirmed greater gray matter concentration for meditators in the right anterior insula, which is involved in interoceptive awareness. This group difference presumably reflects the training of bodily awareness during mindfulness meditation. Furthermore, meditators had greater gray matter concentration in the left inferior temporal gyrus and right hippocampus. Both regions have previously been found to be involved in meditation. The mean value of gray matter concentration in the left inferior temporal gyrus was predictable by the amount of meditation training, corroborating the assumption of a causal impact of meditation training on gray matter concentration in this region. Results suggest that meditation practice is associated with structural differences in regions that are typically activated during meditation and in regions that are relevant for the task of meditation.

In this study, we examined the effects of a short mindfulness meditation induction (MMI) on the performance of a P300-based brain–computer interface (BCI) task. We expected that MMI would harness present-moment attentional resources, resulting in two positive consequences for P300-based BCI use. Specifically, we believed that MMI would facilitate increases in task accuracy and promote the production of robust P300 amplitudes. Sixteen-channel electroencephalographic data were recorded from 18 subjects using a row/column speller task paradigm. Nine subjects participated in a 6 min MMI and an additional nine subjects served as a control group. Subjects were presented with a 6 × 6 matrix of alphanumeric characters on a computer monitor. Stimuli were flashed at a stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) of 125 ms. Calibration data were collected on 21 items without providing feedback. These data were used to derive a stepwise linear discriminate analysis classifier that was applied to an additional 14 items to evaluate accuracy. Offline performance analyses revealed that MMI subjects were significantly more accurate than control subjects. Likewise, MMI subjects produced significantly larger P300 amplitudes than control subjects at Cz and PO7. The discussion focuses on the potential attentional benefits of MMI for P300-based BCI performance.

<p>Abstract The performance of concentrative and mindfulness meditators on a test of sustained attention (Wilkins' counting test) was compared with controls. Both groups of meditators demonstrated superior performance on the test of sustained attention in comparison with controls, and long-term meditators were superior to short-term meditators. Mindfulness meditators showed superior performance in comparison with concentrative meditators when the stimulus was unexpected but there was no difference between the two types of meditators when the stimulus was expected. The results are discussed in relation to the attentional mechanisms involved in the two types of meditation and implications drawn for mental health.</p>

This study investigated the link between meditation, self-reported mindfulness and cognitive flexibility as well as other attentional functions. It compared a group of meditators experienced in mindfulness meditation with a meditation-naïve control group on measures of Stroop interference and the “d2-concentration and endurance test”. Overall the results suggest that attentional performance and cognitive flexibility are positively related to meditation practice and levels of mindfulness. Meditators performed significantly better than non-meditators on all measures of attention. Furthermore, self-reported mindfulness was higher in meditators than non-meditators and correlations with all attention measures were of moderate to high strength. This pattern of results suggests that mindfulness is intimately linked to improvements of attentional functions and cognitive flexibility. The relevance of these findings for mental balance and well-being are discussed.

A three-stimulus auditory oddball series was presented to experienced Vipassana meditators during meditation and a control thought period to elicit event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in the two different mental states. The stimuli consisted of a frequent standard tone (500 Hz), an infrequent oddball tone (1000 Hz), and an infrequent distracter (white noise), with all stimuli passively presented through headphones and no task imposed. The strongest meditation compared to control state effects occurred for the distracter stimuli: N1 amplitude from the distracter was reduced frontally during meditation; P2 amplitude from both the distracter and oddball stimuli were somewhat reduced during meditation; P3a amplitude from the distracter was reduced during meditation. The meditation-induced reduction in P3a amplitude was strongest in participants reporting more hours of daily meditation practice and was not evident in participants reporting drowsiness during their experimental meditative session. The findings suggest that meditation state can decrease the amplitude of neurophysiologic processes that subserve attentional engagement elicited by unexpected and distracting stimuli. Consistent with the aim of Vipassana meditation to reduce cognitive and emotional reactivity, the state effect of reduced P3a amplitude to distracting stimuli reflects decreased automated reactivity and evaluative processing of task irrelevant attention-demanding stimuli.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the mindfulness construct and the mental health benefits associated with mindfulness-based programmes, the relation between mindfulness and its proposed core component attention was studied. Buddhist and Western mindfulness meditators were compared with non-meditators on tasks of sustained (SART) and executive (the Stroop Task) attention. Relations between self-reported mindfulness (FFMQ) and sustained and executive attention were also analysed. No significant differences were found between meditators and non-meditators either in sustained or executive attention. High scores on the FFMQ total scale and on Describe were related to fewer SART errors. High scores on Describe were also related to low Stroop interference. Mindfulness meditators may have an increased awareness of internal processes and the ability to quickly attend to them but this type of refined attentional ability does not seem to be related to performance on attention tests requiring responses to external targets.

The capacity to stabilize the content of attention over time varies among individuals, and its impairment is a hallmark of several mental illnesses. Impairments in sustained attention in patients with attention disorders have been associated with increased trial-to-trial variability in reaction time and event-related potential deficits during attention tasks. At present, it is unclear whether the ability to sustain attention and its underlying brain circuitry are transformable through training. Here, we show, with dichotic listening task performance and electroencephalography, that training attention, as cultivated by meditation, can improve the ability to sustain attention. Three months of intensive meditation training reduced variability in attentional processing of target tones, as indicated by both enhanced theta-band phase consistency of oscillatory neural responses over anterior brain areas and reduced reaction time variability. Furthermore, those individuals who showed the greatest increase in neural response consistency showed the largest decrease in behavioral response variability. Notably, we also observed reduced variability in neural processing, in particular in low-frequency bands, regardless of whether the deviant tone was attended or unattended. Focused attention meditation may thus affect both distracter and target processing, perhaps by enhancing entrainment of neuronal oscillations to sensory input rhythms, a mechanism important for controlling the content of attention. These novel findings highlight the mechanisms underlying focused attention meditation and support the notion that mental training can significantly affect attention and brain function.

<p>Studies suggest that young children are quite limited in their knowledge about cognitive phenomena—or in their metacognition—and do relatively little monitoring of their own memory, comprehension, and other cognitive enterprises. Metacognitive knowledge is one's stored knowledge or beliefs about oneself and others as cognitive agents, about tasks, about actions or strategies, and about how all these interact to affect the outcomes of any sort of intellectual enterprise. Metacognitive experiences are conscious cognitive or affective experiences that occur during the enterprise and concern any aspect of it—often, how well it is going. Research is needed to describe and explain spontaneous developmental acquisitions in this area and find effective ways of teaching metacognitive knowledge and cognitive monitoring skills. (9 ref)</p>

An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may be beneficial for smoking cessation and the treatment of other addictive disorders. One way that mindfulness may facilitate smoking cessation is through the reduction of craving to smoking cues. The present work considers whether mindful attention can reduce self-reported and neural markers of cue-induced craving in treatment seeking smokers. Forty-seven (n = 47) meditation-naïve treatment-seeking smokers (12-h abstinent from smoking) viewed and made ratings of smoking and neutral images while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were trained and instructed to view these images passively or with mindful attention. Results indicated that mindful attention reduced self-reported craving to smoking images, and reduced neural activity in a craving-related region of subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Moreover, a psychophysiological interaction analysis revealed that mindful attention reduced functional connectivity between sgACC and other craving-related regions compared to passively viewing smoking images, suggesting that mindfulness may decouple craving neurocircuitry when viewing smoking cues. These results provide an initial indication that mindful attention may describe a ‘bottom-up’ attention to one’s present moment experience in ways that can help reduce subjective and neural reactivity to smoking cues in smokers.

This study examined the relationship between the executive control process of inhibition and self-reported dispositional mindfulness, controlling for gender, grade, and cortisol levels in 99 (43% female) fourth- and fifth-graders ( = 10.23 years, SD = 0.53). Students completed a measure of mindful attention awareness and a computerized executive function (EF) task assessing inhibitory control. Morning cortisol levels also were collected and were used as an indicator of neuroendocrine regulation. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for gender, grade, and cortisol levels, higher scores on the mindfulness attention awareness measure significantly predicted greater accuracy (% correct responses) on the inhibitory control task. This research contributes to understanding the predictors of EF skills in early adolescents’ cognitive development. Specifically, it identifies mindfulness—a skill that can be fostered and trained in intervention programs to promote health and well-being—as significantly related to inhibitory processes in early adolescence.
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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and helpfulness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) for the treatment of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in a sample of nonreferred children. Twenty-five children, ages 9 to 12, participated in the 12-week intervention. Assessments were conducted at baseline and posttreatment. Open trial analyses found preliminary support for MBCT-C as helpful in reducing internalizing and externalizing symptoms within subjects on the parent report measure. The high attendance rate (Intent-to-Treat sample, 78%; Completer sample, 94%), high retention rate (68%), and positive ratings on program evaluations supported treatment feasibility and acceptability. Overall, this pilot study offers feasibility and acceptability data for MBCT-C as a potential treatment for internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children. Further research is needed to test the efficacy of the intervention with a larger sample of children who meet diagnostic criteria for clinical disorders.
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<p>Cognitive-behavioral approaches to alcohol and drug use disorders have received considerable empirical support over the past 20 years. One cognitive-behavioral treatment, relapse prevention, was initially designed as an adjunct to existing treatments. It has also been extensively used as a stand-alone treatment and serves as the basis for several other cognitive and behavioral treatments. After a brief review of relapse prevention, as well as the hypothesized mechanisms of change in cognitive and behavioral treatments, we will describe a "new" approach to alcohol and drug problems called mindfulness-based relapse prevention. Preliminary data in support of mindfulness-meditation as a treatment for addictive behavior are provided and directions for future research are discussed.</p>

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