A Neurocognitive Perspective of Mindfulness in Adolescence
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In its broadest sense, this global feature of mindfulness involves the capacity to sustain the context created by physical posture, affective tone, and axiological concerns. It also includes the retention of the specific practice instructions for formal meditation.
The neural networks in the brain responsible for self-regulation show suboptimal development during adolescence compared to adulthood (Chambers et al. 2003; Spear 2010). Due to the still maturing neurocircuitry, especially the networks involving prefrontal cortical regions, adolescents tend to show poorer inhibitory control (i.e., ability to control a prepotent response) and higher impulsivity and risky decision-making tendencies. Further, developmental changes in certain brain regions (e.g., nucleus accumbens) related to reward motivation are likely to place adolescents at increased risk for using drugs. This is because the changes in the motivational regions of the brain are likely to result in increased sensitivity to the rewarding effects of drugs and decreased sensitivity to drugs’ aversive effects (Spear 2010). Thus, risk-taking tendencies during adolescence tend to outweigh self-control abilities, which are undergoing development owing to the strengthening and refinement taking place in the brain networks responsible for executive control functions.
In the secular context, Bishop et al. proposed a two-component model of mindfulness, involving “self-regulation of attention” (maintained on immediate experience) and “attitudinal orientation” (curiosity, openness, and acceptance). They described mindfulness as a form of mental training that develops a reflective rather than reflexive mode of responding to internal and external events. Later extended the model to include a third component: intention, which links back to the earlier notion of “remembering,” in addition to attention and attitude.
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