It has been demonstrated that long-term mindfulness programs have beneficial effects on cognitive functioning. However, research findings to date regarding the impact of a brief mindfulness exercise are mixed. Moreover, evidence is scarce regarding the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying brief mindfulness exercises. This study aimed to investigate the effects of a brief mindfulness exercise on cognitive processing using behavioral measures and the P3 component of event-related brain potentials.
Forty-eight healthy young adults were randomly assigned to either a brief mindfulness group or a sitting control group. The mindfulness group performed a 20-min session of mindfulness exercise while the control group remained seated for the same length of time. The Flanker task with electroencephalography recording was completed before and after the treatments.
The mindfulness group showed a higher response accuracy and a smaller P3 amplitude at the post-test relative to the pre-test across Flanker conditions, whereas no such changes were observed in the control group. The response time and P3 latency did not change across the groups. These results suggest that a brief mindfulness exercise prompts more accurate responses and reduces attentional resources during the Flanker task, indicating more efficient cognitive processing.
A brief mindful exercise in novices could enhance the accuracy of cognitive performance and calm the neural response in P3. The current study demonstrates that the benefits of mindfulness extend to short sessions and provides a possible explanation for the neural mechanisms driving these benefits.
This study is not preregistered.