Minds "at attention ": Mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts

Amishi Jha, Alexandra B. Morrison, Justin Dainer-Best, Suzanne Parker, Nina Rostrup, Elizabeth A. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 didacticfocused 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 notraining 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 didacticfocused 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0116889
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 11 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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    Jha, A., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Minds "at attention ": Mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PLoS One, 10(2), [e0116889]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116889