Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Neuroscience

Supervisor

Nagamatsu, Lindsay S.

Abstract

Age-related cognitive decline greatly impacts quality of life for older adults. Previous research has indicated that meditation may act as a neuroprotective factor to prevent age-related cognitive decline. This thesis sought to replicate previous findings and investigate if a four-week meditation intervention would improve sustained attention. Participants 60 years and older (n=27, 17 female) were recruited and assigned to a focused-attention (FA) meditation or relaxation group which met for four weeks, three times a week. Resting-state EEG was used to collect individual alpha peak frequency (iAPF) and frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA). The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) was also used to measure attention. After the intervention, we found no change in iAPF, FAA or SART performance. This thesis found that a four-week FA meditation practice does not influence sustained attention in older adults, however suggestions as to why no relationship was found are discussed and future research is warranted.

Summary for Lay Audience

Age-related cognitive decline greatly impacts quality of life for older adults. Previous research has indicated that meditation may act as a neuroprotective factor to prevent age-related cognitive decline. This thesis sought to replicate previous findings and investigate if a four-week meditation intervention would improve sustained attention in older adults. Participants 60 years and older were recruited and assigned to a focused-attention (FA) meditation or relaxation group which met for four weeks, three times a week. Brain activity was measured by resting-state electroencephalography (EEG) to measure alpha brain waves in both power and Hertz. Previous researchers have identified alpha as a neural marker showing which areas of the brain are inactive, how efficiently active areas of the brain are being used, and therefore can be used to investigate attention. The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) was also used to measure attention through performance in reaction time and accuracy. After the intervention, we found no change in our EEG measures of alpha or SART performance. This thesis found that a four-week FA meditation practice does not influence sustained attention in older adults, indicating that it may not be suitable as a tool to help maintain sustained attention. Furthermore, suggestions as to why no relationship was found are discussed and future research is warranted.

Available for download on Thursday, December 31, 2020

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