Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Mindfulness as Brain Training

Monday, April 1st, 2013
mindfulness for brain training


A team from UC Santa Barbara has shown that just two weeks of mindfulness training can significantly improve reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and focus.

Published in Psychological Science and led by Michael Mrazek, the study, “Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering” surprised the researchers with its clear-cut results: “What surprised me the most was actually the clarity of the results,” said Mrazek, “We found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it.”

Mindfulness is another term for full conscious engagement or presence of mind on the task at hand. When the mind wanders our performance on tasks requiring our attention declines.

Mrazek and his colleagues randomly assigned undergraduate students to either a mindfulness class or a class on nutrition. Before the classes started the students took a test of verbal reasoning from the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and a working memory capacity (WMC) test. The researchers also measured mind-wandering during the tests.

After the classes the students re-took the tests.  Those who had taken the mindfulness class scored significantly better on both the verbal GRE test and the working memory capacity test. Their mind-wandering during testing had also diminished. For those who had taken the nutrition class, the researchers measured no such improvement.

“This is the most complete and rigorous demonstration that mindfulness can reduce mind-wandering, one of the clearest demonstrations that mindfulness can improve working memory and reading, and the first study to tie all this together to show that mind-wandering mediates the improvements in performance,” said Mrazek.

Brain Training with MindSparke’s Brain Fitness Pro is already a great mindfulness booster.  Here are three more that would be wonderful adjuncts to the training:

1. RAIN.

To be used when a strong feeling comes up:

R – recognize what you’re feeling.

A – acknowledge it.

I – investigate its various aspects, and

N – non-identify; “it’s not me, it’s something I’m feeling.”

2. STOP.

Give yourself room to breathe when you’re thoughts are racing:

S - Stop what you are doing.

T - Breathe normally and be mindful of your breath entering and leaving your body.

O - Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Don’t try to keep thoughts or feelings out, just acknowledge them and move on.

P - Proceed by giving yourself you need to feel supported; reach out to someone who can listen, for instance, or deliberately put your current thoughts and feelings into a broader perspective.

3. Walk.

Not an acronym this time. Just a great activity for helping us practice mindfulness.  Rather than walking in a state of distraction, though, focus on the physical and mechanical aspects of the act of walking, your legs and feet moving, your balance shifting, your breath supporting your movements. Likewise you can turn your mindful attention to the world around you.  The sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the places you’re walking through.


Brain Training, Neurogenesis, & Meditation

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Brain Training and Meditation

brain training online meditation

Brain Training And Meditation

So often different medical, scientific and philosophical disciplines travel on parallel paths, unaware or only dimly aware of one another’s existence. This applies to many spheres, not just brain training, neuroscience, medicine, and psychology. But when these parallel paths bend slightly and converge, exciting progress often results.

Scientists from the Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Medical School, and the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging recently bent their paths to study the impact of mindfulness (regular meditation) on the brain. And here at MindSparke we find our own path of brain training research bending to meet them.

The research team set out to investigate what if anything was changing in the brain as a result of mindfulness practice. Specifically, they used neuroimaging to look for “pre–post changes in brain gray matter concentration” of sixteen healthy, meditation-naïve participants who took part in the two month program. The team looked for changes in gray matter concentration compared with a control group of 17 individuals. They found increases in gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus — the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR group compared with the controls. In other words, brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Brain Training Online with Brain Fitness Pro SE – Meditation Included!

From a brain training perspective this is phenomenal. At MindSparke we’ve been investigating the brain training benefits of meditation before training with Brain Fitness Pro. We’ve found that just a brief (eight minute or so) period of mindful meditation before brain training with Brain Fitness Pro’s working memory exercises increases the effectiveness of the dual n-back training by as much as 20%. Several months ago we incorporated guided meditation into the MindSparke Brain Fitness Pro SE (Special Edition) online brain training program.