Poster B37, Sunday, March 25, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Reduced interference in working memory following mindfulness training is associated with increases in hippocampal volume
Jonathan Greenberg1,2, Victoria L Romero3, Seth Elkin-Frankston3, Matthew A Bezdek4, Eric H Schumacher4, Sara W Lazar1,2; 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 2Harvard Medical School, 3Charles River Analytics, 4Georgia Institute of Technology
Proactive interference occurs when previously relevant information interferes with retaining newer material. Overcoming proactive interference has been linked to the hippocampus and deemed critical for cognitive functioning. However, little is known about how this ability can be improved or about the neural correlates of such improvement. Mindfulness training emphasizes focusing on the present moment and minimizing distraction from competing thoughts and memories. It improves working memory and increases hippocampal density. The current study examined whether mindfulness training reduces proactive interference in working memory and whether such improvements are associated with changes in hippocampal volume. 75 participants were randomized to a four-week web-based mindfulness training program or a similarly structured creative writing active control program. The mindfulness group exhibited lower proactive interference error rates compared to the active control group following training, and these improvements significantly associated with volume increases in the left hippocampus. These results provide the first evidence suggesting that mindfulness training can protect against proactive interference, and that these benefits are related to hippocampal volumetric increases. Clinical implications regarding the application of mindfulness training in conditions characterized by impairments to working memory and reduced hippocampal volume such as aging, depression, PTSD, and childhood adversity are discussed.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory