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Mindfulness meditation practices (MMPs) are a subgroup of meditation practices which are receiving growing attention. The present paper reviews current evidence about the effects of MMPs on objective measures of cognitive functions. Five databases were searched. Twenty three studies providing measures of attention, memory, executive functions and further miscellaneous measures of cognition were included. Fifteen were controlled or randomized controlled studies and 8 were case–control studies. Overall, reviewed studies suggested that early phases of mindfulness training, which are more concerned with the development of focused attention, could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention whereas the following phases, which are characterized by an open monitoring of internal and external stimuli, could be mainly associated with improved unfocused sustained attention abilities. Additionally, MMPs could enhance working memory capacity and some executive functions. However, many of the included studies show methodological limitations and negative results have been reported as well, plausibly reflecting differences in study design, study duration and patients' populations. Accordingly, even though findings here reviewed provided preliminary evidence suggesting that MMPs could enhance cognitive functions, available evidence should be considered with caution and further high quality studies investigating more standardized mindfulness meditation programs are needed.

The beneficial clinical effects of mindfulness practices are receiving increasing support from empirical studies. However, the functional neural mechanisms underlying these benefits have not been thoroughly investigated. Some authors suggest that mindfulness should be described as a ‘top–down’ emotion regulation strategy, while others suggest that mindfulness should be described as a ‘bottom–up’ emotion regulation strategy. Current discrepancies might derive from the many different descriptions and applications of mindfulness. The present review aims to discuss current descriptions of mindfulness and the relationship existing between mindfulness practice and most commonly investigated emotion regulation strategies. Recent results from functional neuro-imaging studies investigating mindfulness training within the context of emotion regulation are presented. We suggest that mindfulness training is associated with ‘top–down’ emotion regulation in short-term practitioners and with ‘bottom–up’ emotion regulation in long-term practitioners. Limitations of current evidence and suggestions for future research on this topic are discussed.