A preliminary neuroimaging investigation of the effects of mindfulness training on attention reorienting and amygdala reactivity to emotional faces in adolescent and adult females

J Adolesc. 2023 Jan;95(1):181-189. doi: 10.1002/jad.12107. Epub 2022 Oct 25.


Introduction: Adolescence is a time of increased emotional reactivity and improving cognitive control. Mindfulness meditation training may foster adolescents' cognitive control and emotional regulation skills; however little is known about the impact of mindfulness training in adolescents compared to adults. We examined the effect of mindfulness meditation versus a closely matched active control condition (relaxation training) on behavioral and neural measures of cognitive control and emotional reactivity in a small group of adolescents and adults.

Methods: Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected before and after 8 weeks of training in 26 adolescent (12-14 years) and 17 adult (23-33 years) female participants in the United Kingdom while they completed an n-back task with emotional face distractors and an attentional control task. Participants of each group chose a class date/time and the classes were then randomly allocated to mindfulness or relaxation conditions.

Results: Compared to relaxation training, mindfulness training led to an increase in the speed of reorienting attention across age groups. In addition, there was preliminary evidence for reduced amygdala response to emotional face distractors in adolescents after mindfulness training.

Conclusions: An 8-week mindfulness program showed similar facilitative effects in adolescent and adult females on the reorienting of attention, a skill that is repeatedly practiced during mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness also reduced left amygdala reactivity to emotional face distractors in adolescents only. Mindfulness meditation practice can therefore have a facilitative effect on female adolescents' attentional control, and possibly attenuate their emotional reactivity.

Keywords: cognitive control; development; emotional reactivity; mindfulness; neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meditation* / methods
  • Meditation* / psychology
  • Mindfulness* / methods
  • Neuroimaging