Effects of a Brief, Online, Focused Attention Mindfulness Training on Cognition in Older Adults: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Angelina J. Polsinelli, Alfred W. Kaszniak, Elizabeth L. Glisky, Dev Ashish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Many cognitive changes occur in later life, including declines in attentional control and executive functioning. These cognitive domains appear to be enhanced with mindfulness training, particularly focused attention mindfulness (FAM) meditation, suggesting this practice might slow age-related change. We hypothesized that FAM training would increase self-reported and behaviorally measured mindfulness; improve executive functioning, attentional control, and emotion regulation; and reduce self-reported daily cognitive errors in older adults. To address the call for higher methodological rigor in the field, we used a RCT design with an active control group, measured credibility and expectancy, used objective measures, and attempted to isolate mechanisms of action of mindfulness. Methods: Fifty older adults aged 65 to 90 (M = 75.7, SD = 5.7) completed pre-training testing followed by 6 weeks of online daily FAM or mind-wandering (control) training and then returned for post-training testing. Results: Conditions were comparable with respect to credibility and expectancy. However, most hypotheses were not supported. Though aspects of mindfulness, Fs(1,45) ≥ 7.42, ps ≤.009, ηp 2s ≥ 0.13, CIs90% = [0.02, 0.37] and inhibitory control, F(1,43) = 4.95, p =.031, ηp 2 = 0.10, CI90% = [0.01, 0.25], increased, this was not specific to mindfulness training. There was modest evidence of an improvement in attentional control specific to the mindfulness group, F(1,43) = 4.59, p =.038, ηp 2 = 0.10, CI90% = [0.01, 0.24], but this was not consistent across our two measures. Conclusions: Results are encouraging for the continued study of mindfulness for improving aspects of attentional control in older adults. However, the present research requires replication in a larger, more diverse sample. Implications for future mindfulness studies with older adults are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1193
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Aging
  • Attention
  • Executive function
  • Focused attention mindfulness
  • Randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of a Brief, Online, Focused Attention Mindfulness Training on Cognition in Older Adults: a Randomized Controlled Trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this