Abstract ID: 3313

Primary Topic: Mind-body (including meditation and yoga)
Secondary Topic: State of the science/evidence base for integrative modalities
Tertiary Topic: Basic Science

Reduced interference in working memory following mindfulness training is associated with increases in hippocampal volume
Jonathan Greenberg, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, MA, United States; Victoria L Romero, PhD; Seth Elkin-Frankston, PhD, Charles River Analytics, Cambridge, MA, United States; Matthew A Bezdek, PhD; Eric H Schumacher, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, United States; Sara W Lazar, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, MA, United States

Late Breaker: No


Proactive interference occurs when previously relevant information interferes with retaining newer material. Overcoming proactive interference has been linked to the hippocampus and deemed critical for cognitive functioning. However, little is known about how this ability can be improved or about the neural correlates of such improvement. Mindfulness training emphasizes focusing on the present moment and minimizing distraction from competing thoughts and memories. It improves working memory and increases hippocampal density. The current study examined whether mindfulness training reduces proactive interference in working memory and whether such improvements are associated with changes in hippocampal volume

Methods/Session Format

75 participants were enrolled and randomized to a four-week web-based mindfulness training program or a similarly structured creative writing active control program. Before and after the programs participants’ brains were scanned via a Siemans 3T scanner, and the Recent Probes computer task measuring proactive interference was administered.

(10-15 minute talk, single speaker)


The mindfulness group exhibited significantly greater accuracy in proactive interference resolution compared to the active control group following training, and these memory improvements were significantly associated with volume increases in the left hippocampus


Results provide the first evidence suggesting that mindfulness training can protect against proactive interference, and that these benefits are related to volumetric increases in the left hippocampus. In light of these results, it is suggested that mindfulness may be particularly beneficial for individuals with conditions typically characterized by impairments to working memory and reduced hippocampal volume such as depression, childhood adversity, PTSD, and aging