Exciting new research in the field of neuropsychology has revealed a connection between mindfulness training and a dramatic improvement in task-oriented attention. What makes this study interesting is that it was conducted with an experimental group of sixth-grade children.
For the first time, a study has made a positive correlation between mindfulness and improved cognitive function with this age group.
Healing Arts Institute was founded to help children perform better in school, improve social conduct, and reduce the frequency of behavioral challenges commonly found with children in income-challenged communities. Our school programs and therapies incorporate similar mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques discussed in this study.
Although we have known for some time that mindfulness training improves cognitive control in adults, evidence was lacking when it came to the developing brains of young children.
With the publication of these research findings, we can say with complete confidence that our methods of helping children in Broward county schools are extremely effective.
What is cognitive control?
Cognitive control refers to the ability of focusing on tasks without becoming too distracted. Children are especially prone to inappropriate behaviors and daydreaming when they become bored because the parts of their brain that control focus is not yet fully developed.
There is a balance between the central executive network (CEN) and the default mode network (DMN) of our brains. The CEN is active when focusing on a task, making decisions, or solving a problem.  By contrast, the DMN is active when we allow our minds to wander. A highly active DMN is associated with difficulty concentrating, inappropriate social responses, and reduced emotional control.  The CEN and DMN activate in opposition to one another, meaning that when one is more active, the other is less active.
Children tend to have higher DMN activity, but that changes as they grow older. 
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the cognitive control of children by increasing the activity of the CEN and reducing activation of the DMN.
This is possible because of the ability of the brain to create new neural connections in a process called neuroplasticity.
Mindfulness, children, and neuroplasticity.
We discuss mindfulness often here at Healing Arts.
Essentially mindfulness is the ability to bring your mind’s attention to your immediate environment and focus on what is in front of you at that moment. Mindfulness helps detract from activating parts of your brain that are associated with worry and anxiety – like the amygdala. 
Neuroplasticity is the capability of our brains to form new neural connections. We can therefore form new thoughts, behaviors, and associations. Although we used to think that our neural connections could not be changed, we now know better.
Our brains can reform and reinforce new neural connections throughout our lives, giving us the ability to reshape how we see the world in positive and healthy ways. 
Mindfulness training helps children focus.
The study conducted by Dr. Clemens Bauer et al. took two groups of children and tested their ability to remain focused using the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) assessment. One group of children were provided with 8 weeks of mindfulness training, while the other group was given 8 weeks of training in computer coding.
While both groups performed equally well with the SART assessment at the start of the eight weeks, the mindfulness group outperformed the coding group at the end of the 8 weeks. They showed an increase in CEN activity and a decrease in DMN activity with a better ability to focus.
Even more interesting, the mindfulness group was able to maintain this ability over time and preserve their attention indicating that the effects of the training were long-lasting. 
Dr. Bauer stated in his findings, “I envision a future where mindfulness will be part of the school curriculum as is math or literature.”
Healing Arts’ Mindfulness School Programs have already helped hundreds of children.
Our flagship Awesome Kids Program (AKP) is designed with mindfulness training at its core to help children navigate their daily lives and perform better in school. We already have a proven track record of delivering our life-changing program directly to schools throughout Broward county. Now, we have even more evidence to show how well it works.
Healing Arts Institute will continue to lead the way in delivering mindfulness programs to school children in underserved communities free of charge. We envision a bright future for our kids, and it is our tireless mission to reach as many as possible.
To learn more, please visit us at healingArtssfl.org/programs.
Contact: Dr. Thelma Tennie LMFT to schedule a presentation to learn how Healing Arts can transform the lives of your students.
- Bauer, Clemens C. C., et al. “Mindfulness Training Preserves Sustained Attention and Resting State Anticorrelation between Default‐mode Network and Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Human Brain Mapping, vol. 41, no. 18, 2020, pp. 5356–69. Crossref, doi:10.1002/hbm.25197.
- Bauer, C. C. C., Caballero, C., Scherer, E., West, M. R., Mrazek, M. D., Phillips, D. T., Whitfield-Gabrieli, S., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2019). Mindfulness training reduces stress and amygdala reactivity to fearful faces in middle-school children. Behavioral Neuroscience, 133(6), 569–585. https://doi.org/10.1037/bne0000337
- Borders, Ashley. “Rumination, Cognition, and the Brain.” Rumination and Related Constructs, Academic Press, 2020, pp. 279–311.
- Ellwood, Beth. “School-Based Mindfulness Training Is Linked to Neural Plasticity and Improved Cognitive Control among Sixth Graders.” PsyPost, 23 Mar. 2021, www.psypost.org/2021/03/school-based-mindfulness-training-is-linked-to-neural-plasticity-and-improved-cognitive-control-among-sixth-graders-60149.
- Shaffer, Joyce. “Neuroplasticity and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 7, 2016. Crossref, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01118.
- “Neuroplasticity.” Physiopedia, 2021, www.physio-pedia.com/Neuroplasticity.