Improving Executive Function and its Neurobiological Mechanisms through a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: Advances within the Field of Developmental Neuroscience.

Research paper by Yi-Yuan YY Tang, Lizhu L Yang, Leslie D LD Leve, Gordon T GT Harold

Indexed on: 01 Dec '12Published on: 01 Dec '12Published in: Child Development Perspectives


Poor executive function (EF) has been associated with a host of short- and long-term problems across the lifespan, including elevated rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, drug abuse, and antisocial behavior. Mindfulness-based interventions that focus on increasing awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, and actions have been shown to improve specific aspects of EF, including attention, cognitive control, and emotion regulation. In this article, we apply a developmental neuroscience perspective to review research relevant to one specific mindfulness-based intervention, Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT). Randomized controlled trials of IBMT indicate improvements in specific EF components, and uniquely highlight the role of neural circuitry specific to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) as two brain-based mechanisms that underlie IBMT-related improvements. The relevance of improving specific dimensions of EF through short-term IBMT to prevent a cascade of risk behaviors for children and adolescents is described and future research directions are proposed.