# Mindfulness mediation training and attention in older adults : an ERP study

Bertrand, Caroline Louise 2013 , 'Mindfulness mediation training and attention in older adults : an ERP study', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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## Abstract

Given the current and predicted physical and financial costs of cognitive decline in
older adults, considerable research attention has focussed on finding interventions
effective in slowing or reversing this decline. More recently, mindfulness meditation
practices, derived from Buddhist meditation techniques have been considered as
possible attentional training tools. The present study examined the
electrophysiological correlates of attention in healthy older adults before and after 10
weeks of mindfulness meditation training in the Vipassana tradition. A visual threestimulus
oddball paradigm was employed and accuracy and reaction time measures,
as well as event related potentials (ERPs) were compared before and after the
mindfulness meditation course. Mean amplitude and peak latency of ERP
components P3a and P3b were measured in response to the novel and target stimuli
in the oddball task respectively at the two time points. Participants were 16 healthy
adults aged between 60-85 years (M= 68.13, SD = 7.22) with no previous meditation
experience. Results failed to show support for the hypotheses that mindfulness
training would be associated with improved performance on behavioural measures
and reduced P3a and P3b amplitude and latency as elicited by the novel and target
stimuli respectively. The implications of these results were considered in context of
the varied results of previous work in the study of the relationship between
mindfulness meditation and attention, particularly in older adults. Recommendations
for future research centre on the need for rigorously conducted randomised
controlled trials to further explore this relationship and the potential for mindfulness
meditation to be incorporated into cognitive training programs.

Separate from the declines in cognitive domains seen in different forms of dementia,
cognitive decline is also a normal consequence of ageing in otherwise healthy
individuals (Epel, Daubenmier, Moskowitz, Folkman, & Blackburn, 2009; Slagter,
Davidson, & Lutz, 2011). Older adults show not only general slowing of
information processing, but also deteriorations in specific higher cognitive
functioning. This age-related cognitive decline has been found to occur across a
variety of cognitive domains, such as: episodic memory; visuo-spatial skills; and
executive functioning including working memory and attention (Buckner, 2004;
Hseih, Liang, & Tsai, 2011). Such declines may have a significant effect on an
individual's ability to live independently and undertake various activities of daily
living; and subsequently, their quality of life may decline (Wolinsky et al., 2006).
Given the current and projected increases in the number of elderly
Australians (particularly over 65 years), concerns have not only been raised about the
effect of such a decline in quality of life, but also regarding the financial impact that
such age-related cognitive decline will continue to have (Australian Government,
2010). It is estimated that there were 266, 574 people living with dementia in
Australia in 2011 and it is suggested that there are many more with cognitive
impairment. This figure is projected to increase to 553, 285 people by 2030 and
942,624 people by 2050 (Access Economics, 2011). Tasmania, in particular, has
shown the largest increase in median age over the past 20 years (1990-2010);
including a 200% increase in the 85 years plus age group (Australian Government,
2010). Across all age groups, the number of people living with dementia in
Tasmania in 2011 was 6,732 and this is projected to increase to 20,653 by the year 2050 (Access Economics, 2011). Cost estimates of the impact of cognitive decline in
this ageing population vary; however, it is predicted that by 2060 spending on dementia will outstrip that of any other health condition. Total spending is projected
to be $83 billion and will represent around 11% of the entire health and residential aged care sector spending (Access Economic, 2011). Previous research estimates that delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease in individuals by five years could save up to$67.5 billion dollars by the year 2040 (Access Economics, 2007).
These concerns, combined with an increasing understanding of the
neurophysiological consequences of ageing, have led to an increase in research
focussing on interventions aimed at slowing cognitive decline in older adults (Slagter
et al., 2011; Wolinsky et al., 2006). Much of this research has focussed on
implementing and assessing the effectiveness of behavioural interventions aimed at
increasing mental activity and therefore, it is argued, slowing the rate of cognitive
decline in the ageing brain (see Beason-Held, Kraut, &Resnik, 2008). Research has
provided mixed evidence as to the effectiveness of such behavioural interventions.
Whilst some large-scale longitudinal studies have indicated that such
behavioural interventions may result in task specific learning and, consequently,
slowing in specific areas of cognition, few have resulted in more than a slight
improvement in any cognitive domain (Bablioni et al., 2006; Jennings, Dagenbach,
Engle, &Funke, 2007; Slagter et al., 2011). Further, there are conflicting results
regarding the effect of these interventions on more general cognitive functions, or of
transfer of improvements into other areas of daily functioning. That is, training
benefits are often stimulus or content specific rather than process specific (Slagter et
al., 2011).
Accordingly, a number of researchers have suggested that providing training
that is more process specific may help to overcome some of these limitations (Epel et
- at, 2009; Geng, Zhang, & Zhang; 2011; McHugh, Simpson, & Reed; 2010;-Slagter et al., 2011). These processes, for example attention, are argued to be fundamental to
a wide range of cognitive aspects and therefore contribute to performance over a
wide range of cognitive tasks (Slagter et al., 2011).

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master Bertrand, Caroline Louise The Author Copyright 2013 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyrightowner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. Wewould be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). RA 10.2.15 author granted open access (Hi Rachel,That’s fine.Caroline------------------Caroline Bertrand caroline.bertrand@dhhs.tas.gov.au. 30/1/15 Dear Caroline,We are working on a project to digitise UTAS theses and lodge them in the Library Open Repository. Your PhD thesis is one that has been scanned. This project aims to provide a stable URL to use for any future reference and enhances the accessibility of your research. However, the complete file is currently restricted.Would you give us permission to make this open access from the repository?RA 30.1.15 contacting author to gain permission.Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MPsych(Clin))--University of Tasmania, 2013. Includes bibliographical references View statistics for this item