Mindfulness meditation targets mood and anxiety disorders

Ainsworth, B., Eddershaw, R., Meron, D., Baldwin, D. S., & Garner, M. (2013). The effect of focused attention and open monitoring meditation on attention network function in healthy volunteers. Psychiatry Research. (in press).

Abstract: Mindfulness meditation techniques are increasingly popular both as a life-style choice and therapeutic adjunct for a range of mental and physical health conditions. However, little is known about the mechanisms through which mindfulness meditation and its constituent practices might produce positive change in cognition and emotion.

Our study directly compared the effects of Focused Attention (FA) and Open-Monitoring (OM) meditation on alerting, orienting and executive attention network function in healthy individuals. Participants were randomized to three intervention groups: open-focused meditation, focused attention, and relaxation control. Participants completed an emotional variant of the Attention Network Test (ANT) at baseline and post-intervention.

OM and FA practice improved executive attention, with no change observed in the relaxation control group. Improvements in executive attention occurred in the absence of change in subjective/self-report mood and cognitive function. Baseline levels of dispositional/trait mindfulness were positively correlated with executive control in the ANT at baseline.

Our results suggest that mindfulness meditation might usefully target deficits in executive attention that characterise mood and anxiety disorders.

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