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Title: Facilitating healthy ageing : neuroprotective effects of mindfulness practice
Author: Moore, Adam William
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2013
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Mindfulness-based meditation practices involve various attentional skills including the ability to sustain and focus ones attention. During a simple mindfulness based breath awareness meditation, sustained attention is required to maintain focus on the breath while meta-cognitive awareness and executive control are required to detect and correct mind wandering. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate whether a simple, mindfulness based breath awareness meditation, administered over a short period to meditation naïve individuals could modulate core attentional functions and associated task related neural activity. Two longitudinal randomised control studies were conducted. The aim of the first study was to establish if said modulations were possible in a sample of healthy adults, meeting a current research need for longitudinal evidence in this field and providing important information regarding a potential mechanism for the salutary effects widely observed from the use of mindfulness based interventions. It was found that short term engagement with a mindfulness based breath awareness meditation can modulate core attentional functions and task related neural activity, with specific modulations found in electrophysiological markers of sustained attention to the goal/task at hand and perceptual stimulus discrimination. In line with current theoretical models it is argued that modulations to such core attentional processes following short term training may provide a platform upon which mindfulness related salutary effects are built. The second study was designed to establish if such modulations were possible in older adults. It is argued that mindfulness training may have utility for increasing cognitive reserve, a potential mechanism by which age related declines in cognitive functions may be mitigated. It was found that both behavioural and electrophysiological markers of core attentional functions were modulated following 8 weeks mindfulness training but not following a matched active control group condition (simple brain training exercises). The reviewed extant evidence and findings of this study suggest that mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive reserve through the repeated activation of attentional functions and associated neural activity during practice and are consistent with recent theoretical models of cognitive reserve. The potential for mindfulness training to positively modulate core attentional functions in older adults and to potentially impact cognitive ageing demands further investigation.
Supervisor: Malinowski, Peter; Tattersall, Andy; Montgomery, Cathy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mindfulness; Cognitive Training; Attention; EEG; ERP; Executive Control; Executive Attention; Sustained Attention; Ageing; Aging; Cognitive Reserve;