You’re sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change, when suddenly you’re mentally running through your to-do list for the rest of the day or you’re reflecting back on a conversation you had with a family member. A scenario like this is common - our minds tend to wander when we’re not doing things that require our full attention.
A growing body of research has shown that mindfulness training can strengthen the connections between the networks in our brain that support our ability to control our attention and to notice mind-wandering. A stronger connection between those two networks may give people an increased ability to catch when their mind wanders so they can return their focus back on the present moment.
In a recent study published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, researchers at the Center for Healthy Minds aimed to replicate and extend prior research using the popular, standardized mindfulness training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Researchers also wanted to see what the implications of stronger connections between those two networks were: What does it mean for our attentiveness and tendency for our minds to wander?
“We were able to show that mindfulness training is related to improvement in networks in the brain that are important for attentional control of mind wandering. We also found preliminary evidence that these changes are associated with improvements in self-reported attention,” says graduate student Tammi Kral, the lead-author on the paper.