Aging people experience a slight decrease in their cognitive efficiency, even in the absence of brain pathology. Concurrently, several studies have reported positive effects of meditation practice on older adults’ cognitive functioning. This study aimed to assess if dispositional mindfulness (or more generally trait meditation capacities) was associated with better cognition during aging.
We analyzed cross-sectional data from 134 healthy elderly participants enrolled in the Age-Well trial (age: 69.0 ± 3.8, 61.2% female) using a series of linear regressions. Participants were naïve to meditation practice before inclusion in the study. Three core meditation capacities were assessed: attentional related to metacognition/regulation of attention, constructive assessing attitudes toward others or toward themselves, and deconstructive focusing on cognitive defusion. Cognitive abilities were assessed through four composite measures of attention, executive function, episodic memory, and a global composite sensitive to subtle age-related cognitive changes linked to dementia risk (Preclinical Alzheimer’s Cognitive Composite; PACC5).
There was a positive relationship between PACC5 and deconstructive capacity (Rsp2 = 0.03; p = 0.04). However, no association was observed between the three meditation capacities and the three specific cognitive scores (p > 0.05).
We propose that deconstructive capacity, associated with self-inquiry and downregulation of maladaptive affective schemes, could be a cognitive factor important for global cognition in healthy aging. It remains to be determined to what extent explicit training in meditation positively influences these capacities and whether these changes also contribute to better cognition in aging.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02977819 (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02977819?term=NCT02977819&draw=2&rank=1).