Maintaining mental well-being, be it cognitive or emotional, in the elderly has proven challenging which could explain why ‘fitness for the mind’ regimens have become a billion dollar industry. Two types of training are well-documented: 1) mindfulness-based (MB) training, especially secular forms, and 2) working memory (WM) training. Though primarily studied in younger populations, these interventions also shown promise in older adults (cf. Gard et al. 2014, Au et al., 2014). In light of the strong interest among the healthy older people in improving their mental well-being, we seek to compare WM with MB training on a range of factors associated with such well-being, specifically attention, resilience to stress, and memory function. In light of evidence indicating that MB training improves attention (Morrison et al., 2014), WM (Jha et al., 2010), and perceived stress, we hypothesized that MB training would offer broader benefits than WM training. The proposed study will use functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to track neural activity over the course of training to link both behavioral and subjective improvements in well-being to changes brain function. The fNIRS imaging technology was chosen as it allows us to recruit participants with metal implants (e.g. stints) or pace-makers who would be excluded from fMRI scanning due to safety concerns.

Grant voided.

Martin Paczynski

George Mason University