Jacqueline Maye successfully defends dissertation

Key findings from Maye dissertationJacqueline E. Maye, MS, a student collaborator in our lab, successfully defended her dissertation on June 13,2018.

Entitled A 14-week study of mindfulness effects on attentional control in older adults, the study was developed by Ms. Maye and funded by a 2-year NIH NRSA predoctoral fellowship (and also a conference/travel award and an American Psychological Association award).

Ms. Maye now moves on to a one-year psychology internship in Neuropsychology and Inpatient Psychiatry at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

Committee members were Dawn Bowers, PhD ABPP, Natalie Ebner, PhD, Michael Marsiske, PhD (Chair) and Lori Waxenberg, PhD ABPP.

Ms. Maye’s abstract of the study follows:

Older age is a period of risk for decline in attentional control and other cognitive functions. Mindfulness practice, with its primary focus on non-judgmental attention to the present moment, is one possible intervention that may affect attention and emotion in later life. The present study investigated emotion and attention in a process-oriented way that allowed for in-depth tracking of change throughout a 14-week mindfulness intervention study. 40 older adult participants were randomized to receive 8 weeks of mindfulness training (n=20) or participate in an active control group focused on brain health education (n=20). All participants completed performance-based tests of attention and answered questions about emotional functioning once per week throughout the 14 weeks. Overall, participants in both the mindfulness treatment group and the active control condition experienced broad cognitive and mood benefits, although there was little evidence that mindfulness instruction was specifically beneficial. Exceptions were found for subjective control of mind wandering, and for conflict monitoring, aligning with past research. Of note, improvements in mind wandering were coupled with improvements in Speed/Attention suggesting, via a significant indirect effect, that to the extent that mindfulness instruction was successful in improving mind wandering control, participants then experienced larger cognitive improvement benefits. Overall, results suggest that mindfulness treatment was effective in improving the earliest attentional outcomes expected of novice practitioners, in a rarely-studied older adult population, and support further investigation into the utility of mindfulness training in cognitive intervention research.