A study has been conducted at the UCLA department of psychiatry testing the proposition that training in mindfulness meditation in a group setting can have a positive effects on the symptoms of adult ADD. Results were highly promising and suggest that there is a role for structured mental exercise of various sorts in the treatment of both the underlying neurophysiology of ADD as well as in addressing the accumulated secondary complications in mood and executive functioning. (Journal of Attention Disorders jad.sagepub.com)

The UCLA team led by Dr Lidia Zylowska took 24 adults and 8 adolescents and led them through a¬†gentle and gradual eight week introduction to mindfulness meditation; the age-old Buddhist practice of cultivating a “bare attention” while sitting or walking. Participants attended a weekly training session and committed to a daily practice starting with 5 minutes of meditation per day and gradually increasing to 15 minutes per day.

The study is noteworthy for adding important ADHD psychoeducational material to the training and for shorter time requirements for sitting meditation than has usually been the case

Participants were tested before and after the training period for depression, anxiety, ADHD and cognitive functioning. About 80% of the participants finished the study and of those 78% reported improvement in ADHD symptoms. Improvement was also seen in cognitive testing and on scales of depression and anxiety.

Dr Zylowska’s work is more evidence of the neuroplastic nature of our brains. Much is now being written on this topic (“The Mind and The Brain” by Jeff Schwartz and Sharon Begley, “The Brain That Changes Itself” By Norman Doidge. It remains to be seen exactly what sort of mental exercises are best for exploiting our natural neuroplasticity in working with what we are now calling Attention Deficit Disorder; clearly the rich tradition of Buddhist mindfulness offers a logical and now a proven source for exploring such matters you can find out more about Dr Zylowska’s work, and the work of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center at lidiazylowska.com or at MARC@ucla.edu.

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