The Effect of Mindfulness-based Programs on Cognitive Function in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Author: Tim Whitfield1, Thorsten Barnhofer#2, Rebecca Acabchuk#3, Avi Cohen4, Michael Lee4, Marco Schlosser4,5, Eider M Arenaza-Urquijo6, Adriana Böttcher7, Willoughby Britton8, Nina Coll-Padros9, Fabienne Collette10, Gaël Chételat11, Sophie Dautricourt11, Harriet Demnitz-King4, Travis Dumais12, Olga Klimecki5, Dix Meiberth13, Inès Moulinet11, Theresa Müller13, Elizabeth Parsons4, Lauren Sager12, Lena Sannemann13, Jodi Scharf12, Ann-Katrin Schild13, Edelweiss Touron11, Miranka Wirth7, Zuzana Walker4,14, Ethan Moitra8, Antoine Lutz15, Sara W Lazar16, David Vago17, Natalie L Marchant4
1 Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK.
2 School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.
3 Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.
4 Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK.
5 Geneva School of Social Sciences, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
6 Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.
7 German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Dresden, Germany.
8 Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.
9 Alzheimers Disease and Other Cognitive Disorders Unit, Hospital Clínic, Institut d Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi I Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Barcelona, Spain.
10 GIGA-CRC, In Vivo Imaging, Universite de Liege, Liege, Belgium.
11 INSERM UMR-S U1237, Caen-Normandie University, GIP Cyceron, Caen, France.
12 School of Public Health, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.
13 Department of Psychiatry, Medical Faculty, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
14 Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Wickford, UK.
15 Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, Lyon 1 University, Lyon, France.
16 Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
17 Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA.
Conference/Journal: Neuropsychol Rev
Date published: 2021 Aug 4
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s11065-021-09519-y. , Word Count: 199

Mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) are increasingly utilized to improve mental health. Interest in the putative effects of MBPs on cognitive function is also growing. This is the first meta-analysis of objective cognitive outcomes across multiple domains from randomized MBP studies of adults. Seven databases were systematically searched to January 2020. Fifty-six unique studies (n = 2,931) were included, of which 45 (n = 2,238) were synthesized using robust variance estimation meta-analysis. Meta-regression and subgroup analyses evaluated moderators. Pooling data across cognitive domains, the summary effect size for all studies favored MBPs over comparators and was small in magnitude (g = 0.15; [0.05, 0.24]). Across subgroup analyses of individual cognitive domains/subdomains, MBPs outperformed comparators for executive function (g = 0.15; [0.02, 0.27]) and working memory outcomes (g = 0.23; [0.11, 0.36]) only. Subgroup analyses identified significant effects for studies of non-clinical samples, as well as for adults aged over 60. Across all studies, MBPs outperformed inactive, but not active comparators. Limitations include the primarily unclear within-study risk of bias (only a minority of studies were considered low risk), and that statistical constraints rendered some p-values unreliable. Together, results partially corroborate the hypothesized link between mindfulness practices and cognitive performance. This review was registered with PROSPERO [CRD42018100904].

Keywords: Aging; Elder; Intervention; Meditation; Mindfulness; Neuropsychology.

PMID: 34350544 DOI: 10.1007/s11065-021-09519-y