Neural Effects of Mindfulness Training on Attention

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): We aim to investigate the cognitive and neural consequences of mindfulness meditation training (MMT), which has been reported to result in enduring health improvements. MMT has its roots in Eastern religious practice and its availability and popularity as a complimentary therapy for stress, chronic pain, and disordered eating. Mindfulness meditation has been described as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally". Although attention is a key component of meditation, little is known about the cognitive and neural changes within the human attention system that result from MMT. In the proposed studies, we aim to examine the effects of MMT on the human attention system using behavioral and functional MRI (fMRI) measures. In all studies, MMT comprises participation in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. This group will be compared to a nutrition education control group. All behavioral and fMRI tests will be performed at 2 timepoints, 1 immediately preceding and 1 immediately following participation in the course. At both timepoints, subjects will perform the Attention Network Task (ANT), which has been used to identify neural substrates of the alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring attention networks. In addition, salivary cortisol and psychometric questionnaires will be given to index stress levels. Our working hypothesis is that MMT strengthens the orienting component of attention; which comprises, disengage, and move operations. MMT may also improve coordinated functioning of all 3 networks. There are 3 main predictions: 1) MMT may result in greater improvements in behavioral measures of orienting relative to alerting and conflict monitoring. 2)The neural substrates of each attention network.(alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring) may demonstrate improved processing efficiency following MMT, with the most pronounced effects in the orienting network; 3) MMT will result in stress reduction that may correlate with behavioral and neural changes in these attention networks. This project has 2 potential long-term benefits: 1) Refinement of current techniques and therapies using MMT; 2) Introduction of MMT as a neuroenhancement tool that may improve the functioning of attention. [unreadable]
Effective start/end date9/1/068/31/09


  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: $191,166.00
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: $196,354.00


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