Mindfulness training may boost cognitive and emotional wellbeing

Just four weeks of mindfulness meditation could help to improve emotional balance and thinking ability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and even more so than cognitive training, new research had found.

The study split 61 patients randomly into three groups. One was given four weeks of mindfulness-based training (MBT), another had four weeks of adaptive computerised cognitive training (aCT), and the last group served as a control.

The mindfulness training given featured in-person sessions every week of two hours, and at-home self-practice for 40 minutes. The patients learnt to do body scanning, to be aware of their breath, and seated meditation. They were told to focus on their thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.

The aCT group also had two hours of weekly in-person sessions and 40 minutes of work at home. They had to read and take part in video game exercises which were focused on brain processing speed, working memory, attention, and executive function.

Cognitive impairment was evaluated using the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological Test (BRB-N), Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), and the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), both before and after patients had the training.

Brain processing speed was significantly improved in the mindfulness group, compared with the aCT and control groups. Working memory was also boosted, which researchers say was linked to changes in awareness the mindfulness training provided.

Emotional control was evaluated using self-reported and behavioural measures. Compared to the other two groups, the mindfulness group demonstrated a better ability to regulate emotion. They also had less feelings of worry, act of rumination and repeatedly thinking about problems to an extreme extent than the other groups.