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It is estimated that people spend almost half their waking hours lost in stimulus-independent thought, or mind wandering, which in turn has been shown to negatively impact well-being. This has sparked a rise in the number of cognitive training platforms that aim to boost executive functioning, yet it is unclear whether mind wandering can be reduced through online training. The current study aimed to investigate whether behavioral markers of mind wandering can be reduced through two short-term online-based interventions: mindfulness meditation and brain training. Using a randomized controlled design, we assigned one group of participants to 30 days of mindfulness training (n = 54) and another to 30 days of brain training (n = 41). Mind wandering and dispositional mindfulness were assessed pre- and post-intervention via the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) and the Mindful Attention to Awareness Scale (MAAS), respectively. We found significant reductions in mind wandering and significant increases in dispositional mindfulness in the mindfulness training group but not the brain training group. A lack of any significant change in the brain training group may be driven by methodological limitations such as self-report bias. These results indicate that short online mindfulness-based interventions may be effective in reducing mind wandering.
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Online-based Mindfulness Training Reduces Behavioral Markers
of Mind Wandering
Ida H Bennike
&Anders Wieghorst
&Ulrich Kirk
Received: 23 January 2017 / Accepted: 4 April 2017 /Published online: 25 April 2017
#Springer International Publishing 2017
Abstract It is estimated that people spend almost half their
waking hours lost in stimulus-independent thought, or mind
wandering, which in turn has been shown to negatively impact
well-being. This has sparked a rise in the number of cognitive
training platforms that aim to boost executive functioning, yet
it is unclear whether mind wandering can be reduced through
online training. The current study aimed to investigate wheth-
er behavioral markers of mind wandering can be reduced
through two short-term online-based interventions: mindful-
ness meditation and brain training. Using a randomized con-
trolled design, we assigned one group of participants to
30 days of mindfulness training (n= 54) and another to 30 days
of brain training (n= 41). Mind wandering and dispositional
mindfulness were assessed pre- and post-intervention via the
Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) and the
Mindful Attention to Awareness Scale (MAAS), respectively.
We found significant reductions in mind wandering and sig-
nificant increases in dispositional mindfulness in the mindful-
ness training group but not the brain training group. A lack of
any significant change in the brain training group may be
driven by methodological limitations such as self-report bias.
These results indicate that short online mindfulness-based in-
terventions may be effective in reducing mind wandering.
Keywords Mindfulness .Mind wandering .Cognitive
Mind wandering involves thinking about events or experi-
ences unrelated to the task at hand. It has been estimated that
mind wandering occupies up to 46% of our waking lives and
been shown to negatively impact subjective well-being
(Killingsworth and Gilbert 2010). Some studies suggest that
mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may be effective at
reducing mind wandering (e.g. Levinson et al. 2014). In ad-
dition, there has been a recent surge in the number of
mindfulness-based smartphone apps, as well as the number
of online platforms that aim to increase cognitive performance
and enhance well-being through cognitive training. Thus, the
main aim of this study was to investigate whether a laboratory-
based behavioral marker of mind wandering would decrease
following two types of online-based cognitive training inter-
ventions: anMBI and cognitive training.
Behavioral markers of mind wandering are frequently mea-
sured in the laboratory via the Sustained Attention to
Response Task or SART (Robertson et al. 1997). The perfor-
mance markers of the SART are among the most carefully
validated and commonly used indirect measures of mind wan-
dering (Mrazek et al. 2012). The SART requires subjects to
respond to sequentially presented targets and to withhold
responding when infrequent targets are presented centrally
on an otherwise black screen. According to Robertson et al.
(1997), sustained attentioncan be defined as task-relevant
processing during monotonous tasks that encourage automat-
ic, mindless responding, and susceptibility to distractors (both
endogenous and exogenous in origin) that can induce off-task
behavior. This type of off-task behavior can be captured by the
SART. Specifically, the SART is designed such that the auto-
matic response is the default, thereby encouraging a habitual
response pattern that must be periodically overwritten by a
conscious executive decision to refrain from responding.
Ida H Bennike and Anders Wieghorst contributed equally to this work.
*Ulrich Kirk
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark,
5230 Odense, Denmark
J Cogn Enhanc (2017) 1:172181
DOI 10.1007/s41465-017-0020-9
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... A broad range of research has shown that mindfulness is effectful in dampening stress and indeed increase cognitive processing [29][30][31][32][33][34][35]. However, it has thus far not been tested whether these salutary cognitive effects are present in an 'ecological' context, i.e., in the workplace. ...
... However, it has thus far not been tested whether these salutary cognitive effects are present in an 'ecological' context, i.e., in the workplace. Thus, this study aimed to investigate in a large group of Danish employees if listening to music or practicing mindfulness has the same positive effect on increased cognitive processing as when these training regimes were tested in the lab [29][30][31][32][33][34][35]. ...
... As a behavioral therapy mindfulness seek to improve self-regulation and emotion management through systemic training [36,37]. Such skills have recently been shown to reduce mind-wandering [29,34,38,39]. Mindwandering refers to thoughts that are not tied to the immediate task and can be linked with decreased performance on different measures including working memory capacity [40]. ...
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Background Occupational stress has huge financial as well as human costs. Application of crowdsourcing might be a way to strengthen the investigation of occupational mental health. Therefore, the aim of the study was to assess Danish employees’ stress and cognition by relying on a crowdsourcing approach, as well as investigating the effect of a 30-day mindfulness and music intervention. Methods We translated well-validated neuropsychological laboratory- and task-based paradigms into an app-based platform using cognitive games measuring sustained attention and working memory and measuring stress via. Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale. A total of 623 healthy volunteers from Danish companies participated in the study and were randomized into three groups, which consisted of a 30-day intervention of either mindfulness or music, or a non-intervention control group. Results Participants in the mindfulness group showed a significant improvement in the coefficient of sustained attention, working memory capacity and perceived stress ( p < .001). The music group showed a 38% decrease of self-perceived stress. The control group showed no difference from pre to post in the survey or cognitive outcome measures. Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between usage of the mindfulness and music app and elevated score on both the cognitive games and the perceived stress scale. Conclusion The study supports the nascent field of crowdsourcing by being able to replicate data collected in previous well-controlled laboratory studies from a range of experimental cognitive tasks, making it an effective alternative. It also supports mindfulness as an effective intervention in improving mental health in the workplace.
... For example, Morrison et al. (2014) found that non-target accuracy was significant, but this metric is not reported elsewhere. Target accuracy was significant according to Bennike et al. (2017), but not in Morrison et al.'s (2014) study. Other CPTs are less commonly used in mind-wandering research and therefore required more careful interpretation when considering which error profiles represented equivalent kinds of mind-wandering. ...
... The implications of this are addressed in the discussion. Bennike et al. (2017) addressed this problem by comparing Table 3 Type of CPT errors measured by study ...
... heads pace. com/ mindf ulness, as cited in Bennike et al. (2017) Italicized text represents instructions given directly to participants as part of the meditation, unitalicized text represents a general description of the meditation procedure given within the article Banks et al. (2015) chose this method in a much-needed effort to control for participant expectancies-something that had been neglected by previous studies. However, these two conditions are so similar that this study could also be conceptualized as a comparison of two mindfulness conditions, one of which contains an acceptance component. ...
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Mind-wandering—defined as off-task thinking—can be disruptive to daily functioning. Mindfulness is considered a potential method for reducing mind-wandering; however, no study has systematically reviewed findings on this topic. The present systematic review synthesizes current findings from this literature, examining whether results vary as a function of study methodology. Our final sample included n = 15 peer-reviewed studies, with 14 studies describing at least one significant relationship between the two constructs. Study results varied as a function of how constructs were operationalized and type of active control. Mindfulness appears most consistently related to reductions in probe-caught mind-wandering, as well as fewer commission errors and less response time variability on sustained attention tasks. Self-report measures of both constructs were the least consistent in their relation to other measures. Future research should focus on increasing methodological rigor to confirm results and on identifying facets of mindfulness most effective for decreasing mind-wandering.
... As mentioned above, there is evidence suggesting that mindfulness practice can increase self-perceived sleep quality (Black et al., 2015;Garland et al., 2014;Gross et al., 2011;Hubbling et al., 2014;Ong et al., 2008). A separate line of evidence suggests that mindfulness practice may also increase cognitive performance (Axelsen et al., 2019;Bennike et al., 2017;Jha et al., 2015;Mrazek et al., 2013) even after exposure to brief (e.g., 8 min) mindfulness sessions (Mrazek et al., 2012). Therefore, based on these two lines of evidence, the present study also aimed to examine if guided mindfulness would enhance sleep quality and improve subsequent cognitive performance as measured through the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) (Robertson et al., 1997). ...
... However, the mediation analysis and ANCOVA showed that the guided mindfulness intervention had a direct effect on SART performance independently of the HRV component or sleep quality. These results are in line with previous literature showing how guided mindfulness intervention improves significantly cognitive function (Chiesa et al., 2011) and more specifically sustained attention and mind wandering (Jha et al., 2015;Morrison et al., 2014;Bennike et al., 2017;Mrazek et al., 2012;Kirk et al., 2018;Axelsen et al., 2019). Based on the present data, it appears that any strategy aiming at increasing HRV can have a direct impact on cognitive performance as measured with SART. ...
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Reduced sleep quality is pronounced among the majority of the US population and is associated with decreased quality of life. The development of solutions that can aid in improving sleep quality is therefore imperative. This study examined the impact of 3 app-based interventions on physiological regulation of sleep arousal, sleep quality, and cognitive functioning using a within-subject crossover design. Participants (n = 40) were assigned to a randomized sequence of 3 active intervention conditions each with a duration of 1 week in which participants were instructed to listen to sleep music, sleepcasts, and guided mindfulness sessions for 15–45 min and a non-intervention control condition. Heart rate variability (HRV) and actigraphic measurements were collected continuously. Only the guided mindfulness intervention improved scores on the PSQI (Pittsburg Sleep Quality Inventory) from baseline to post-intervention. The actigraphy-based results showed increased sleep efficiency in the 3 active interventions compared to the non-intervention control. The HRV results showed that the 3 active interventions increased HRV during the pre-sleep period; however, only the guided mindfulness intervention increased the HRV during the sleep period compared to the non-intervention control. The results furthermore showed that the guided mindfulness intervention resulted in an increase in attentional vigilance during a cognitive task from pre- to post-intervention. Finally, a mediation analysis showed that the guided mindfulness condition had direct and indirect effects on the SART performance (Sustained Attention to Response Task), and the effect was partially mediated by HRV. These results provide support for the guided mindfulness intervention both during pre-sleep period and sleep period, and partial support for the sleep music and sleepcasts interventions restricted to the pre-sleep period. In addition, only guided mindfulness positively influenced HRV during the sleep period and showed an impact on cognitive functioning (i.e. SART performance) post-sleep.
... Such intervention studies found that the practice of mindfulness usually improved SART performance 3,34-36,37,38 and reduced the frequency of self-reported MW in some cases 36,39 but not in others 34,38 . Moreover, one study reported higher MAAS scores after mindfulness training 35 . Similarly to the findings of those correlation studies reported before, in these mindfulness training studies the associations between the direct MW measure and mindfulness is not as strong as one might expect. ...
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Mind wandering (MW) and mindfulness have both been reported to be vital moderators of psychological wellbeing. Here, we aim to examine how closely associated these phenomena are and evaluate the psychometrics of measures often used to quantify them. We investigated two samples, one consisting of German-speaking unpaid participants (GUP, n = 313) and one of English-speaking paid participants (EPP, n = 228) recruited through In an online experiment, we collected data using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the sustained attention to response task (SART) during which self-reports of MW and meta-awareness of MW were recorded using experience sampling (ES) probes. Internal consistency of the MAAS was high (Cronbachs α of 0.96 in EPP and 0.88 in GUP). Split-half reliability for SART measures and self-reported MW was overall good with the exception of SART measures focusing on Nogo trials, and those restricted to SART trials preceding ES in a 10 s time window. We found a moderate negative association between trait mindfulness and MW as measured with ES probes in GUP, but not in EPP. Our results suggest that MW and mindfulness are on opposite sides of a spectrum of how attention is focused on the present moment and the task at hand.
... Past studies have shown that mindfulness or meditation induction and practices decrease one's tendency to mind wandering afterwards [15,16,[43][44][45][46]. Some studies also show that an individual's tendency to mind wandering decreases during mindfulness induction compared to focusing on a mental image [47] or resting [48]. ...
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Mind wandering has been argued to be beneficial for breaking through mental impasses, which leads to better creative performance upon a second attempt (i.e., the incubation effect). However, the evidence is inconsistent. Different from the propensity for mind wandering that has been the focus of past studies, in this study we further examined the role of diversity (i.e., non-repetitiveness of mind wandering respective to its content) and types of mind wandering along the dimensions of intentionality and awareness during incubation when engaging in a 0-back task (a mind wandering-prone condition) and a focused-breathing practice (a mindfulness-induced condition). We proposed that diversity rather than the propensity for mind wandering was crucial for post-incubation divergent creativity and that mindfulness induction would be a more effective way to elicit the incubation effect because it should result in fewer but more diverse mind-wandering incidents than engaging in a mind wandering-prone task. We conducted an experiment with a between-participant variable (incubation tasks: mind wandering-prone, mindfulness-induced, and no incubation). As predicted, the mindfulness-induced group (N = 30) outperformed the control group (N = 31) on flexibility for the unusual uses task measuring divergent thinking after incubation, but the mind wandering-prone group (N = 29) did not outperform the control group. In addition, the diversity of mind wandering and the tendency toward intentional mind wandering predicted the magnitude of incubation effects on flexibility and originality, respectively. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... This is because the notion 21 that the harmfulness of MW diverges based on its contents, including temporal orientation 22 2016). The third is the questionnaire method: Questionnaires such as the Mind Wandering 1 Questionnaire (MWQ; Mrazek, Phillips, et al., 2013) have been developed to assess trait 2 MW (Bennike & Wieghorst, 2017). Immediately shifting attention from MW can reduce 3 the time spent in MW during a task or in daily life, and it is likely that the scores of these 4 indices decrease when the disengagement from MW increases. ...
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Objective: Mindfulness meditation might improve the ability of disengagement from mind-wandering (MW), that is, the ability to shift attention from MW. Disengagement from MW could mediate the relationship between mindfulness and reduced depression. However, no studies have confirmed this relationship because of limitations in measurement methodology. Since the mindfulness-based intervention, which instructs participants to be aware of the occurrence of, and their own engagement in, MW, might bias self-reports of MW, a measurement method that does not rely on participants’ verbal report is needed. Therefore, we propose a novel method to evaluate the ability of disengagement from MW, based on MW intensity estimation by machine-learning using electroencephalography. Method: Mind-wandering (MW) intensity was estimated using 1-s electroencephalogram samples and a machine-learning model developed in previous research. Thus, fluctuations in MW were observed during a 14-min meditation and the time required to shift attention from MW was defined as an index of MW disengagement. Two experiments were performed: The first targeted experienced meditators and the second assessed nonmeditators before and after participating in a mindfulness-based intervention. Results: The experiments revealed that disengagement from MW correlated with the extent of meditation experience. A correlation was also found between the magnitude of change in disengagement and severity of depression following the intervention. Conclusions: Though further verification of validity is required, this study suggested the possibility that disengagement from MW has a mediating function on reducing depression by mindfulness-based intervention, and that improved disengagement from MW is more essential for mindfulness than trait MW.
... As regards mobile applications, these may contribute to closing the treatment gap for depression by reaching large populations at relatively low costs [36]. There is evidence of positive effects of mindfulness-based mobile applications on well-being, stress level, affect, work engagement, irritability, mind wandering as well as sleep quality in different study populations [37][38][39][40][41][42][43]. Eight randomized controlled trials using a mindfulness-based app as an intervention group are reported in more detail in Table 1. ...
Background: Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) often experience relapses despite regular treatment with pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Further, long waiting lists and more demand than treatment capacity characterize ambulatory settings. Mindfulness-based interventions proved to be effective in relapse prevention in MDD. Next, mindfulness-based interventions in the form of free mobile applications can be an effective augmentation of the treatment as usual and can fill a gap in ambulatory care. Objective: Given this background, the aim of this randomized controlled study is to assess the effectiveness of additional MBI via a mobile app on the symptom severity and stress levels, compared to treatment as usual. Methods: A total of 140 individuals with MDD will be randomly allocated to the intervention or control condition. The intervention consists of the daily use of the mindfulness mobile application Headspace for thirty days (up to 10 minutes a day). The control condition will be treatment as usual. At baseline and four weeks later, the following key outcome dimensions will be assessed: self-rated (Beck Depression Inventory) and experts' rated symptoms of MDD (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale); secondary outcome variables will be blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate and changes in tobacco and alcohol consumption and medication as a proxy of perceived stress. Results: This study was funded in February 2021 and approved by the institutional review board on April 15, 2021, and it started in May 2021. As of December 2021, we enrolled 30 participants. The findings are expected to be published in spring 2023. Conclusions: We hypothesize that compared to the control conditions, individuals with MDD of the mobile app-condition will have both lower self- and experts' rated symptoms of MDD and more favorable stress-related levels. While the risk for medical events is low, the immediate benefit for participants could be a decrease in symptom severity and reduction of the stress level. Trial registration: Clinical NCT05060393; International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/33423.
... Although the format of online learning has adverse effect on sustained attention, which subsequently detriments academic performance of students attending online courses, evidence is limited regarding the influencing factors and their interaction on sustained attention in online learning, especially in the context of nursing. The focus of current studies is to examine the effectiveness of various approaches at detecting and sustaining attention of students in online learning (Bennike et al., 2017;Pan et al., 2020;Jang et al., 2020;Conrad and Newman, 2019). Limited studies on influencing factors investigated only one or two factors related to sustained attention, such as technology application, emotions and cognitive load (Wood et al., 2012;Hidi and Renninger, 2006;Lavie, 2010). ...
Background Sustained attention is a key variable affecting nursing students' academic performance during online learning process. However, factors contributing to sustained attention remain to be determined. Aims To analyze the path relationships among the influencing factors for nursing students' sustained attention in online learning using a structural equation model. Design A cross-sectional survey was administered. Methods Nursing students from 35 nursing schools in China were invited to participate in this survey study. Once participating in nursing programs and receiving online learning, they were eligible for the study. The data were collected online via the Questionnaire Star platform from March 29 to April 19, 2020. A structural equation modelling (SEM) approach was utilized to analyze the relationships between sustained attention and influencing factors (situational interest, anxiety, cognitive load, technology efficacy and professional identity). Furthermore, multi-group SEM analysis was conducted to examine whether the model equally fitted nursing students in different levels of programs. Results A total of 1089 nursing students completed the questionnaires. The majority (77.3%) were female and the mean age (SD) was 21.9 (4.4) years. A half (50.3%) were enrolled in the undergraduate programs. Results suggested that situational interest (β = 0.19, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.24) and anxiety (β = −0.70, 95% CI: −0.76, −0.64) directly affected sustained attention. Both technology efficacy (β = 0.22, 95% CI: 0.15, 0.28) and professional identity (β = 0.20, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.26) had conferred indirect effects on sustained attention through academic emotions (i.e., situational interest and anxiety). The cognitive load directly affected sustained attention (β = −0.15, 95% CI: −0.20, −0.09) and indirectly affected sustained attention through anxiety (β = −0.32, 95% CI: −0.37, −0.26). There was no significant difference in the model fit among nursing students in various programs, including diplomatic, associate and bachelor's degree and above programs (∆χ2 = 27.228, p = 0.611). Conclusions Technology efficacy, professional identity, situational interest, anxiety and cognitive load are identified as the main elements affecting nursing students' sustained attention. This model is equally suitable for nursing students in different levels of nursing programs. During the process of online learning, students' attributes, emotions and cognition should be considered to help students achieve learning goals in nursing education.
Background: There is evidence that mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) can help one to recover from mental fatigue (MF). Although the strength model of self-control explains the processes underlying MF and the model of mindfulness and de-automatization explains how mindfulness training promotes adaptive self-regulation leading to the recovery of MF, a systematic overview detailing the effects of MBI on the recovery of MF is still lacking. Thus, this systematic review aims to discuss the influences of MBI on the recovery of MF. Methods: We used five databases, namely, PubMed, Web of Science, EBSCOhost, Scopus, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) for articles published up to 24 September 2021, using a combination of keywords related to MBI and MF. Results: Eight articles fulfilled all the eligibility criteria and were included in this review. The MBI directly attenuated MF and positively affected the recovery of psychology (attention, aggression and mind-wandering) and sports performance (handgrip, plank exercise and basketball free throw) under MF. However, the interaction did not reach statistical significance for the plank exercise. Therefore, the experience and duration of mindfulness are necessary factors for the success of MBI. Conclusions: mindfulness appears to be most related to a reduction in MF. Future research should focus on improving the methodological rigor of MBI to confirm these results and on identifying facets of mindfulness that are most effective for attenuating MF.
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In recent years, various organizations, such as companies and governments, have been required to take measures for the mental health of their employees, and the importance of self-care for mental health by employees themselves has been increasing, as well as being supported by administrators, such as doctors and workplace managers. As a means of self-care of mental health that can be implemented by busy professionals during their workdays and daily lives, the Digital-SAT method has been developed to implement the stress-care process of the SAT method, a psychological counseling technique for resolving psychological stress problems, in a self-guided manner using digital media. To realize the Digital-SAT method, two issues need to be addressed: first, to obtain the same emotional stress reduction effect as the SAT method and, second, to ensure the continuous implementation of the Digital-SAT method. Previous studies have shown that applications (apps) using virtual reality are effective in solving the former issue, and an app using a chatbot can be effective in solving the latter. In this research, an intervention study was conducted to verify the effectiveness of combined use of the two apps to encourage continuous use, resulting in increased emotional stress reduction, with the aim of making it feasible in actual work environments. An intervention of four weeks of app use was conducted with 70 nurses working in two hospitals where measures for mental health due to emotional labour and overwork were required. The emotional stress reduction effects of the intervention were evaluated using psychological scales and blood pressure levels, and it was confirmed that combined use of apps was more effective than using them separately to practice the Digital-SAT method in an actual work environment.
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Background: A variety of studies have demonstrated gains in cognitive ability following cognitive training interventions. However, other studies have not shown such gains, and questions remain regarding the efficacy of specific cognitive training interventions. Cognitive training research often involves programs made up of just one or a few exercises, targeting limited and specific cognitive endpoints. In addition, cognitive training studies typically involve small samples that may be insufficient for reliable measurement of change. Other studies have utilized training periods that were too short to generate reliable gains in cognitive performance. Methods: The present study evaluated an online cognitive training program comprised of 49 exercises targeting a variety of cognitive capacities. The cognitive training program was compared to an active control condition in which participants completed crossword puzzles. All participants were recruited, trained, and tested online (N = 4,715 fully evaluable participants). Participants in both groups were instructed to complete one approximately 15-minute session at least 5 days per week for 10 weeks. Results: Participants randomly assigned to the treatment group improved significantly more on the primary outcome measure, an aggregate measure of neuropsychological performance, than did the active control group (Cohen's d effect size = 0.255; 95% confidence interval = [0.198, 0.312]). Treatment participants showed greater improvements than controls on speed of processing, short-term memory, working memory, problem solving, and fluid reasoning assessments. Participants in the treatment group also showed greater improvements on self-reported measures of cognitive functioning, particularly on those items related to concentration compared to the control group (Cohen's d = 0.249; 95% confidence interval = [0.191, 0.306]). Conclusion: Taken together, these results indicate that a varied training program composed of a number of tasks targeted to different cognitive functions can show transfer to a wide range of untrained measures of cognitive performance. Trial registration: NCT-02367898.
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Objectives: Group mindfulness meditation interventions have improved symptoms in many health conditions. However, many people are unwilling to receive group treatment, so alternative delivery methods such as individual and internet may be a useful option. The study objective was to examine mindfulness meditation intervention delivery format preferences and their relationship to potential predictors. Design: An online survey was conducted of adult English speakers. Data was collected on interest and preference for internet, individual, or group formats of a mindfulness meditation intervention. Age, gender, personality, and posttraumatic stress disorder score and status and depression status were also collected. Results and conclusions: 500 eligible participants completed the survey (mean age 39±15; range 18-70; 68% female). Participants were more interested in the Internet (n=356) and individual formats (n=384) than the group format (n=245). Fifty-five participants (11%) said they would refuse a group format. Internet was the first choice format for most participants (Internet 212 (43%), Individual 187 (38%), Group 97 (20%) and group was the last choice for most participants (Internet 140 (29%), Individual 70 (14%), Group 279 (57%)). Age, extraversion and emotional stability were significant in predicting first choice format. These results support the need for more research and implementation of alternative mindfulness meditation intervention delivery formats. Future research will incorporate additional predictors and include a broader range of participants.
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We investigated the impact of mindfulness training (MT) on attentional performance lapses associated with task-unrelated thought (i.e., mind wandering). Periods of persistent and intensive demands may compromise attention and increase off-task thinking. Here, we investigated if MT may mitigate these deleterious effects and promote cognitive resilience in military cohorts enduring a high-demand interval of predeployment training. To better understand which aspects of MT programs are most beneficial, three military cohorts were examined. Two of the three groups were provided MT. One group received an 8-hour, 8-week variant of Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT) emphasizing engagement in training exercises (training-focused MT, n = 40), a second group received a didactic-focused variant emphasizing content regarding stress and resilience (didactic-focused MT, n = 40), and the third group served as a no-training control (NTC, n = 24). Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) performance was indexed in all military groups and a no-training civilian group (CIV, n = 45) before (T1) and after (T2) the MT course period. Attentional performance (measured by A', a sensitivity index) was lower in NTC vs. CIV at T2, suggesting that performance suffers after enduring a high-demand predeployment interval relative to a similar time period of civilian life. Yet, there were significantly fewer performance lapses in the military cohorts receiving MT relative to NTC, with training-focused MT outperforming didactic-focused MT at T2. From T1 to T2, A' degraded in NTC and didactic-focused MT but remained stable in training-focused MT and CIV. In sum, while protracted periods of high-demand military training may increase attentional performance lapses, practice-focused MT programs akin to training-focused MT may bolster attentional performance more than didactic-focused programs. As such, training-focused MT programs should be further examined in cohorts experiencing protracted high-demand intervals.
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Mindfulness practice of present moment awareness promises many benefits, but has eluded rigorous behavioral measurement. To date, research has relied on self-reported mindfulness or heterogeneous mindfulness trainings to infer skillful mindfulness practice and its effects. In four independent studies with over 400 total participants, we present the first construct validation of a behavioral measure of mindfulness, breath counting. We found it was reliable, correlated with self-reported mindfulness, differentiated long-term meditators from age-matched controls, and was distinct from sustained attention and working memory measures. In addition, we employed breath counting to test the nomological network of mindfulness. As theorized, we found skill in breath counting associated with more meta-awareness, less mind wandering, better mood, and greater non-attachment (i.e., less attentional capture by distractors formerly paired with reward). We also found in a randomized online training study that 4 weeks of breath counting training improved mindfulness and decreased mind wandering relative to working memory training and no training controls. Together, these findings provide the first evidence for breath counting as a behavioral measure of mindfulness.
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Neuroimaging research has demonstrated that ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) encodes value signals that can be modulated by top-down cognitive input such as semantic knowledge, price incentives, and monetary favors suggesting that such biases may have an identified biological basis. It has been hypothesized that mindfulness training (MT) provides one path for gaining control over such top-down influences; yet, there have been no direct tests of this hypothesis. Here, we probe the behavioral and neural effects of MT on value signals in vmPFC in a randomized longitudinal design of 8 weeks of MT on an initially naïve subject cohort. The impact of this within-subject training was assessed using two paradigms: one that employed primary rewards (fruit juice) in a simple conditioning task and another that used a well-validated art-viewing paradigm to test bias of monetary favors on preference. We show that MT behaviorally censors the top-down bias of monetary favors through a measurable influence on value signals in vmPFC. MT also modulates value signals in vmPFC to primary reward delivery. Using a separate cohort of subjects we show that 8 weeks of active control training (ACT) generates the same behavioral impact also through an effect on signals in the vmPFC. Importantly, functional connectivity analyses show that value signals in vmPFC are coupled with bilateral posterior insula in the MT groups in both paradigms, but not in the ACT groups. These results suggest that MT integrates interoceptive input from insular cortex in the context of value computations of both primary and secondary rewards.
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Mindfulness training (MT) is a form of mental training in which individuals engage in exercises to cultivate an attentive, present centered, and non-reactive mental mode. The present study examines the putative benefits of MT in University students for whom mind wandering can interfere with learning and academic success. We tested the hypothesis that short-form MT (7 h over 7 weeks) contextualized for the challenges and concerns of University students may reduce mind wandering and improve working memory. Performance on the sustained attention to response task (SART) and two working memory tasks (operation span, delayed-recognition with distracters) was indexed in participants assigned to a waitlist control group or the MT course. Results demonstrated MT-related benefits in SART performance. Relative to the control group, MT participants had higher task accuracy and self-reported being more "on-task" after the 7-week training period. MT did not significantly benefit the operation span task or accuracy on the delayed-recognition task. Together these results suggest that while short-form MT did not bolster working memory task performance, it may help curb mind wandering and should, therefore, be further investigated for its use in academic contexts.
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Cognitive training (CT) is effective at improving cognitive outcomes in children with and without clinical impairment as well as older individuals. Yet whether CT is of any preventative health benefit to working age adults is controversial. Our objective was therefore to investigate the real-world efficacy of CT in the workplace, involving employees from across the working-age spectrum and addressing many of the design issues that have limited trials to date. 135 white collar employees of a large Australian public sector organization were randomised to either 16 weeks (20 minutes three times per week) of online CT or an active control (AC) program of equal length and structure. Cognitive, wellbeing and productivity outcome measures were analysed across three timepoints: baseline, immediately after training and 6 months post-training. CT effects on cognitive outcomes were limited, even after planned subgroup analyses of cognitive capacity and age. Unexpectedly, we found that our AC condition, which comprised viewing short documentaries about the natural world, had more impact. Compared to the CT group, 6 months after the end of training, those in the AC group experienced a significant increase in their self-reported Quality of Life (Effect Size g = .34 vs -.15; TIME×GROUP p = .003), decrease in stress levels (g = .22 vs -.19; TIME x GROUP p = .03), and overall improvement in Psychological Wellbeing (g = .32 vs -.06; TIME×GROUP p = .02). CT does not appear to positively impact cognition or wellbeing amongst white collar office workers; however, short time-out respite activities may have value in the promotion of psychological wellbeing. Given looming challenges to workplace productivity, further work-based interventional research targeting employee mental health is recommended. THIS TRIAL WAS REGISTERED WITH THE AUSTRALIAN NEW ZEALAND CLINICAL TRIALS REGISTRY: ACTRN12610000604000 (
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Given that the ability to attend to a task without distraction underlies performance in a wide variety of contexts, training one's ability to stay on task should result in a similarly broad enhancement of performance. In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a 2-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory. Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting. Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.