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School of Health Sciences

The effect of mindfulness meditation on executive function for people with neurological conditions

Supervisors

1st Supervisor: Dr Angeliki Bogosian

2nd Supervisor: Dr Catherine Hurt

Research Centre

Health Services Research

Project Description

Mindfulness meditation has been widely used by psychologists and other professionals in various settings around the world. Among other areas mindfulness has been shown to decrease distress in people with multiple sclerosis (Bogosian et al., 2015), Parkinson’s disease (Bogosian et al., in preparation) and dementia (Russell-Williams et al., 2018). Mindfulness meditation is not only linked to improved psychological well-being, but there is also some preliminary evidence showing that mindfulness meditation can have neurobiological effects, for example, it has been shown that people with Parkinson’s disease that attended an 8-week mindfulness program, showed increase grey matter density (Pickut et al., 2013). Further, various types of mindfulness meditation seem to positively influence cognitive functions, like focused attention, selective and executive attention, working memory and other executive functions (Chiesa et al., 2011).

However, how strong is the evidence for the cognitive effect claims? Most studies are conducted in small sample sizes, less rigorous designs and non-active controls. This series of studies investigates the links between mindfulness and executive functions and higher-order cognitive processes for people with neurological conditions.

Methodology

Study 1:

A cross-sectional study will examine how facets of dispositional mindfulness are linked with cognitive performance in people with neurological conditions (i.e. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia). The Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire, a battery of Executive Functioning tasks and the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment will be used. The hypotheses will be tested by constructing multiple meditation models which will be analysed using Structural Equation Modelling.

Study 2:

In this study, people with neurological conditions will be randomly assigned to a mindfulness meditation versus a sham meditation (control) group. This active-controlled mixed factorial experiment study will investigate the effects of a 20-minute guided mindfulness meditation on the primary measures of executive function and attention regulation. Key thinking dispositions, including the need for cognition and actively open-minded thinking. State mindfulness and dispositional mindfulness will also be assessed.

Study 3:

A randomised active-controlled double-blinded trial will examine the effects of an online mindfulness intervention on executive control, attention regulation and memory specificity for people with neurological conditions. Participants will be randomly allocated, following the screening, to either a mindfulness meditation group or a sham meditation group. The intervention content will be tailored from our previous mindfulness meditation interventions of people with neurological conditions. Primary outcome measures will assess mindfulness, executive functioning, attention regulation, actively open-minded thinking and need for cognition. Secondary outcome measures will assess well-being, positive and negative effect, and impact of symptoms.

If you would like to have an informal discussion please contact Angeliki.bogosian.1@city.ac.uk.