Theses Doctoral

Evaluating the Effects of Mindfulness Practices in Young Children Using Electrophysiological Measures of Attention and Salivary Measures of Stress

Avery, Trey

Research from multiple fields and methodologies has aligned in recent years to support the development of biological models of mechanisms underlying effects of mindfulness practices in adults. Mindfulness-based programs for young children have proliferated in recent years but research examining the effects of these programs and practices is less conclusive, generally showing small mixed effects. Questions about age of initiation and the format, dosage and emphasis of programs represent a significant challenge that will require integrated multidisciplinary collaboration. The current study demonstrates the feasibility, sensitivity and reliability of electroencephalographic (EEG) measures of attention, and salivary measures of stress, in measuring biological changes associated with mindfulness practices in children aged five to seven years. Widely used and reliable behavioral measures showed no significant differences between groups whereas EEG measures showed significant group differences in event-related potentials associated with different attention networks elicited by the Attention Network Task for Children (ANT-C). The multiple salivary measures of stress showed mixed differences in slope by measure and group, some of which were predicted and align with previous literature, albeit not reaching statistical significance. Together, results demonstrate the value of utilizing multiple biological measures, particularly functional brain imaging, as a means to gain insights into the effects of mindfulness-based practices in young children. Additional data and more rigorous study designs are needed to directly associate observed differences with specific mindfulness programs and practices, but data suggest mindfulness practices enhance attentional and executive control which in turn could support enhanced regulation of the stress response system. Mindfulness based interventions and programs in early development have the potential to protect and enhance the development of critical biological systems that support academic achievement, health and wellbeing.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Speech and Language Pathology
Thesis Advisors
Froud, Karen
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2016