Get access

Improving Executive Function and Its Neurobiological Mechanisms Through a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: Advances Within the Field of Developmental Neuroscience


  • We thank the staff at the Institute of Neuroinformatics for assistance in data collection, and Michael Posner for insightful comment and revision. This work and the writing of this report were supported by 973 Program 2012CB518200, Office of Naval Research, R21 DA030066, P30 DA023920, and R01 HD042608.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yi-Yuan Tang, MS 2051, Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute and Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University, TX 79409; e-mail:


Poor executive function (EF) has been associated with a host of short- and long-term problems across the lifespan, including elevated rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, drug abuse, and antisocial behavior. Mindfulness-based interventions that focus on increasing awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, and actions have been shown to improve specific aspects of EF, including attention, cognitive control, and emotion regulation. Reflecting a developmental neuroscience perspective, this article reviews research relevant to one specific mindfulness-based intervention, integrative body-mind training (IBMT). Randomized controlled trials of IBMT indicate improvements in specific EF components, and uniquely highlight the role of neural circuitry specific to the anterior cingulate cortex and the autonomic nervous system as two brain-based mechanisms that underlie IBMT-related improvements. The relevance of improving specific dimensions of EF through short-term IBMT to prevent a cascade of risk behaviors for children and adolescents is described and future research directions are proposed.

Get access to the full text of this article