The aim of this multi-investigator award was to assess the effects of school-based mindfulness training in two different educational settings: college students and middle schoolers. Because common emotional disturbances are already present in the college sample, and ameliorated with meditation practice, it is feasible that teaching these skills before the onset of emotional disturbance may be prophylactic to their onset. Depression and anxiety show an exponential increase between age 11 and 13, especially for girls, so we targeted 11-12 year olds in the 6th grade of a local private school. One hundred and one 6th graders were randomized into either a 6-week Asian History module with 5-10 minutes of simple breath awareness meditation or African History (without meditation) with the same teacher. Similar to the college sample, the meditation group showed a larger reduction in anxiety than controls. The meditation group was also 6 times less likely to develop thoughts of suicidal ideation and/or thoughts of self harm. The meditation group also showed increases in pro-social behavior (i.e. decreased bullying). Meditating girls increased in self-compassion and decreased in self-criticism, a known precipitant to the development of mood disorders. Current analyses include objective measures of attention and executive functioning (i.e. sustained attention to response task, SART).

Ellen Darling

Brown University Medical School

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Nathaniel Lepp

Brown University Medical School

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