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Raine Chen, Zhenzhi Yang, Jiaqi Li, Mingzhan Wu, Xin Zhou, Xintong Xie, Wenjin Du, Liqiang Huang; State and short-term effects of mindfulness meditation training on attention. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1815. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1815.
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Extensive mindfulness meditation has been widely supported in prior research for its beneficial effects on stress reduction and attention enhancement. Here we systematically examined the effects of mindfulness meditation training on various aspects of attention as well as how long-lasting the effects are. To investigate the state effects of mindfulness training on attention, we compared the baseline performance of 32 meditation novices (age range: 18-22, all non-gamers) on Attention Network Test (ANT) with their performance on the same task immediately after 30-min mindfulness meditation training (16 participants, 6 males) or 30-min action video game training (16 participants, 6 males). The findings indicate half an hour of both mindfulness and action video game training boosted participants’ performance in the conflict monitoring subsystem of attention. More interestingly, the meditation group also showed significant improvement in the attention alerting subsystem whereas no such enhancement was observed in the action gaming group (group X test interaction: p<0.05). To further examine the short-term effects of mindfulness training on attention, we recruited another 18 meditation novices (age range: 18-22) and randomly assigned them either to receive six-week (around 30 hours in total) Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction training (n=9, 4 males) or to serve as waiting-list controls (n=9, 2 males). In the pre- and post-test of attention measurements, we used four different tasks, namely (1) ANT, (2) Multiple-object tracking, (3) Attentional blink and (4) Sustained attention. To separate state effects from the short-term effects, the post-test was arranged at least one day after the training. Training produced enhancement was only found in the alerting subsystem in ANT (group X test interaction: p<0.05) but not the other three attention tasks. Together, our findings suggest that the mindfulness training not only temporarily bolsters attentional alerting and conflict monitoring, but also induces long-lasting changes in the attentional alerting.
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